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´╗┐Title: Hooded Detective, Volume III No. 2, January, 1942
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hooded Detective, Volume III No. 2, January, 1942" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                      FEATURING THE BLACK HOOD!!!

                          _MAN OF MYSTERY!!_

                           HOODED DETECTIVE


                          _VOL. III, No. 2_

                           _JANUARY, 1942_


A SMASHING BLACK HOOD NOVEL


     THE WHISPERING EYE                 By G. T. Fleming-Roberts       8

     Hunted by the police ... framed for robbery and murder by the Eye,
     master fiend and vicious ruler of the underworld ... loathed by
     Barbara Sutton the girl who loves him ... the BLACK HOOD had to
     face the blazing purgatory of this murder master's guns to win back
     Barbara's love and clear himself of the framed charges


SIX ACTION PACKED SHORT STORIES


     CANDIDATE FOR A COFFIN                    By T. W. Ford          42

     Wilson Lamb cuddled his automatic to play "Mr. Death" and fingered
     little Louis Engel for coffin cargo. But when he pulled the
     trigger, Whisper the gun-cobra from Chi spilled out of Doom's
     deck....


     ONE HUNDRED BUCKS PER STIFF               By J. Lloyd Conrich    52

     Mr. Peck was dead ... the papers said so. Yet Mr. Peck performed
     his own autopsy and saved eight men from death.


     DEATH IS DEAF                             By Cliff Campbell      60

     Big Sid couldn't understand it, and he was a smart monkey. He had
     cased this job himself, personal. Had cooked up the scheme for
     pulling it off and had spent a good two weeks laying the
     groundwork. Yet here he was locked up in the county jail with the
     hot squat waiting to claim him....


     THREE GUESSES                             By David Goodis        65

     Detective Frey came in and saw Duggin lying dead, and he figured
     he'd go out and do big things. He went out and threw his weight
     around. Doing big things? You figure that one out.


     THE COP WAS A COWARD                      By Wilbur S. Peacock   73

     Johnny Burke had the making of a fine cop in him ... but there was
     something strange about Johnny Burke--something mighty strange.


     A DINNER DATE WITH MURDER                 By Harry Stein         86

     They had expected spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner, but were
     served instead, hot lead, with a little bit of blood on the
     side....


TWO TRUE FACT DETECTIVE SHORTS


     THE STRANGE CASE OF WILLIAM LONG          By Roy Giles           81

     ARTISTIC MURDERS MISFIRE                  By Mat Rand            90


     HOODED DETECTIVE, published every other month by COLUMBIA
     PUBLICATIONS, INC. 1 Applelon Street, Holyoke, Mass. Editorial and
     executive offices 60 Hudson Street, New York, N. Y. Application for
     entry as second class matter pending at the Post Office at Holyoke,
     Mass. Yearly subscription 60c, single copy 10c. Printed in the U.
     S. A.



THE WHISPERING EYE

A BRAND NEW BLACK HOOD NOVEL

by G. T. FLEMING-ROBERTS

     Hunted by the police ... framed for robbery and murder by the EYE,
     master fiend and vicious ruler of the underworld ... loathed by
     Barbara Sutton, the girl who loves him ... The BLACK HOOD had to
     face the blazing purgatory of this murder master's guns to win back
     Barbara's love and clear himself of the framed charges.

[Illustration: _Gray jets of live steam erupted from pipes around the
edge of the room which threatened to boil BLACK HOOD alive._]



CHAPTER I

_Rob And Kill_


That night, the sounds that came from the metal stamping plant of
Weedham Industries, Incorporated, might have been prophetic of the
immediate and ugly future, for they were like the rattle of machine
guns. But Joseph, keeper of the south gate, was blissfully ignorant of a
Thompson gun and its deadly chatter, so that he drew no such comparison.
His only worry at the time lay in the dark sky above and the blue-white
stabs of lightning that promised an electrical storm.

[Illustration]

He hated storms. Probably he hated the idea of being murdered, or would
have if it ever occurred to him. But then he didn't know that he was
going to be murdered, and he did know it was going to storm. The thunder
was the tocsin of the storm, but those who came to rob and kill moved
unheralded in swift silence.

The night shift had clocked in over an hour ago, and there should be no
passing through the gate for at least six hours. Joseph tilted his chair
back against the steel fence and kindled his cob pipe. The air was hot
and still so that blobs of pipe smoke clung like earth-bound ghosts
about him. In spite of the impending storm, Joseph was happy. In his
mind was a kindly thought for William "Old Bill" Weedham, principal
owner of Weedham Industries. That was because of the bonus Joseph was
anticipating.

Within the next twenty-four hours, Joseph knew, seventy-five thousand
dollars would be distributed in cash bonuses to the employees of the
metal stamping division. Joseph had mentally spent his tiny fraction of
the money a dozen times or more. He did a lot of dreaming, Joseph did.
But about pleasant things. He had never dreamed of those who rob and
kill.

A low slung maroon roadster came down the street and nosed into the
mouth of the tarvia drive at Joseph's gate. Joseph eased his chair
forward, stood up, approached the car, his faded eyes squinted against
the glare of the floodlights mounted on top of the high fence. The car
looked like the one young Jeff Weedham drove. Jeff Weedham was "Old
Bill" Weedham's son. He took no interest in his father's business or in
anything else unless it was that newspaper business which the elder
Weedham had purchased for him.

Yes, that was Jeff Weedham at the wheel, and beside him were two other
young people--a girl and a redheaded man. Joseph took off his cap and a
grin cracked his weathered face.

"Hi," Jeff Weedham said. He was a narrow-headed man with frail-looking
sloped shoulders and a thin triangle of face. He had an engaging,
careless grin, and light brown eyes that laughed. He had a marked
tendency to stutter.

"Well," Joseph said, highly pleased, "if it ain't Mr. Jeff Weedham!"

Joseph sent a shy glance toward the other occupants of the car. The girl
instantly reminded him of honey and violets. Hers was one of those
clear, golden complexions, and there was a certain unspoiled sweetness
about her mouth. It must have been her eyes that recalled violets.

The man on the girl's right seemed to overlap her possessively which
could have been accounted for by the width of his shoulders. His red
hair bristled in defiance to any comb. His nose looked as though it had
been hit a few times in its owner's lifetime. The greenish suit he wore
was filled to capacity with overly developed muscles. A leather cased
camera was suspended from his bull neck by means of a strap. He had a
flashlight gun in his right hand, and a photographer's tripod was
propped upright between his knees.

"D-d-do you think you could let us in?" Jeff Weedham asked of Joseph.
"_The D-Daily Opinion_ is going to give D-d-dad a plug."

_The Daily Opinion_ was the newspaper which Bill Weedham had bought for
his son, Joseph recalled.

"Why, I guess so," Joseph replied. "But your friends here will have to
sign the register book."

The big redhead had some difficulty getting into the pocket of his suit
coat from which he extracted a card. He swelled importantly as he handed
it across to the gate keeper. The card read, "_The Daily Opinion._ Joe
Strong, News Photographer."

He said, "I guess this will fix everything, huh Jeff?"

"This is Miss Barbara Sutton," Jeff said, indicating the girl beside
him. "I've hired her as a reporter, and Joe Strong is her cameraman. I
just came along to see that they get inside. They're d-d-doing an
article on the various manufacturing plants around New York."

       *       *       *       *       *

Joseph bowed to Barbara Sutton. "You folks can go right in, just as soon
as you sign the book." He went back to his post and returned with a
ledger. He turned pages with a moistened thumb, took a pencil out of his
pocket, passed both to the passengers of the roadster. Barbara Sutton
and Joe Strong signed.

"Looks like it's kicking up a storm," Joseph said.

The thunder rolled ominous reply to his remark. Then Joseph went to the
gate, opened it, and the roadster rolled up the drive toward the
stamping mill.

Joseph went back to his chair and rekindled his pipe. He smiled at the
memory of Barbara Sutton. He didn't know when he had seen a prettier
girl. There must be an awful lot of young fellows who thought the same
thing.

"And if I was twenty years younger I guess I'd try to give them a lot
of competition!" he said aloud and chuckled.

His chuckle stopped as lightning flare threw the shadow of a man across
the ground at Joseph's feet. He looked up, startled. The man faced
Joseph silently. He was slight, wore a workman's overall suit, and he
had a lunch box under his arm. His face, what could be seen of it
beneath the low drawn hat, was one of starved cheeks, lipless mouth,
pinched nose, and a chin that seemed to dangle.

Joseph at first thought the man was one of the mill hands who had
arrived late for work.

"You don't care what time you show up," Joseph grumped. "You know you're
over an hour late?"

The slight man laughed unpleasantly.

"I ain't late," he said. "I guess I'm just about in time."

Something with the glint of bright steel flashed from the lunch box
under the man's arm. Instantly Joseph's mind connected this with the
seventy-five thousand dollars in small bills that was to come in on the
bank express truck in a few minutes.

_Stick-up!_ Joseph's brain shrieked the alarm. He tried to get out of
his chair, but a knife blade that was like a sliver of light was driven
into Joseph's throat, sliding through flesh and muscle, torturing every
pain nerve in his body, driving relentlessly until the point of it
wedged into the wood back of the gate keeper's chair.

The chair creaked and groaned beneath Josephs' writhings. But the knife
and the thin, dirty fingers of the killer did not permit his body to
alter its position. And then the pain nerves died. Joseph's brain
emptied, fortunately; a man would not want to know that he was tacked to
a chair, bleeding to death.

The killer released Joseph. A little of the spurting blood had got on
his dirty fingers, and he wiped his hands on the seat of his trousers.
Then he removed the keys from the gate keeper's pocket. He went to the
gate, unlocked it, and opened it wide.

There were great overgrown shrubs on either side of the gate just
outside the factory grounds. The killer walked to the bushes at the west
side of the gate, parted the branches with his dirty fingers.

"Delancy," his voice croaked.

The shrubbery shook. The thick torso of a man who squatted like a toad
could be seen partly emerging from the shrubs.

"Okay, Shiv?"

"Okay, Delancy," the killer chuckled. "His own mudder would t'ink he was
asleep in the chair. Don't death make a guy look natural, huh?"

"You get back to the car," the man in the bushes said. "Be ready to pick
us up as soon as we crack the money truck. If you get nervous, think of
the dough. Seventy-five grand!"

"I ain't noivous!" the killer said. "T'ink I never croaked a guy before.
It's a pipe. Dis whole job is a pipe, wit' us havin' a Monitor gun to
open dat armored truck. I'm almost ashamed to be associated wit' such a
pipe of a job."

"Sure it's a pipe," Delancy agreed from amid the bushes. "Only don't get
too cocky on account of there's one guy who could mess things up for us
if he ever hits our trail."

Shiv laughed. "You're worrying about the Black Hood, huh?"

"I'm not worrying," Delancy said crossly. "I'm just being cautious. Each
job we do for the boss gets a little bigger. One of these times we'll
run into Mr. Black Hood."

"And when we do--" the killer drew a line across his throat with his
forefinger. Then he turned and walked away from the bushes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Delancy's moon face disappeared in the foliage. Only his hard little
eyes glittered in the shadows. Beside him, patiently silent, was Squid
Murphy. Murphy was motionless except for his twitching left eyelid.
Murphy was manning the Colt Monitor rifle, the kind of gun the G-men
used to death-drill the armor plate cars the mobsters sometimes used.
Tonight the weapon was in other hands.

Delancy watched the lean figure of the knifeman ambling leisurely up the
road toward where the get-away car was parked, lights out. Shiv wasn't
nervous. Neither was Murphy, in spite of his twitching eyelid. There was
nothing to be nervous about since they had hooked up with this new
boss--this guy Delancy had never seen; this guy who knew all the
answers. No, there was nothing to worry about as long as that relentless
hunter of criminals known as the Black Hood kept off their tail.

Delancy wasn't nervous even when the blunt gray snout of the bank
express truck turned into the mouth of the drive and slowed up before
the open gate. He just took a firmer grip on his automatic and waited.

The driver of the bank truck yelled at the motionless figure of Joseph.
And when Joseph didn't answer, the driver nudged the guard who rode
beside him.

"What the hell's wrong with their watchman?"

Delancy heard that. His little eyes saw the guard get out of the cab. He
saw that the back door of the armored truck was opening and another
guard was getting out. Delancy thought, _What a break this is!_ And then
he shot the driver in the back.

The guard who had ridden up in front snatched at his shoulder holster as
he turned in the direction of Delancy's fire. On the other side of the
drive, two more of Delancy's boys opened up with automatics, so that by
the time the guard had decided he was facing death, death spoke from
behind him. Two slugs ripped into him. His own gun jumped twice, the
first shot coming dangerously close to Delancy's head, while the second
was an unaimed thing caused by the convulsive jerk of the guard's
trigger finger as he spilled forward on his face.

The man who had got out of the rear of the truck saw a glimpse of the
hell that had spouted from the shrubbery and tried to duck for cover
behind the truck. And beside Delancy, the Monitor gun came to life. It
talked fast in a language that was all its own. It got the retreating
guard twice, the heavy, bone-shattering slugs knocking the man first one
way and then another as he fell crazily to the ground.

There were two guards inside the truck. Their guns roared from the ports
in the armored walls. But the Monitor rifle was a can opener. Crouching
beside Squid Murphy, Delancy felt the heat of its barrel and saw the
black periods that were bullet holes speckling the gray steel sides of
the truck. Now only one of the gun ports in the truck was active.

The barrel of the Monitor swung and the hot steel barrel burned
Delancy's arm. He said, "Hell!" hoarsely and jumped out of the bushes,
automatic in hand. Delancy dropped flat and heard the sound of a bullet
whining by. And then the Monitor's deafening hammer sounded again, and
after that, silence.

Delancy picked himself up, ran, his thick, toadlike body silhouetted by
the truck lights. Gun smoke lay in placidly moving layers of gray before
the light beams. Delancy ducked through the open door of the truck. One
of his own men was already inside, and he tossed a money bag to Delancy.
Delancy caught it with one arm and a belly and passed it back through
the door to Squid Murphy who was standing just outside.

Delancy said, "Cut it, Murphy!" Because Squid Murphy was giggling.
Murphy was kill-crazy, and tonight the Monitor rifle in his hands had
made him feel like a god. His giggling rasped on Delancy's nerves.

Delancy picked up another money bag, and then told his boys they'd have
to get going. He didn't know why he felt as though they ought to get
away in a hurry. Surely no one inside the Weedham plant could have heard
the gun fire above the racket the machines were making. Also, the
neighborhood about the factory was thinly populated.

But something he couldn't put his finger on was spurring Delancy to get
clear of the scene of the crime as soon as possible. Maybe it was the
lightning that flashed with ever increasing frequency. Or maybe it was
the ghastly tableau the body of Joseph, the watchman, made, sitting in
that chair, pinned there like a butterfly by Shiv's knife.

A big gray sedan stood in the middle of the road, the motor idling. Shiv
the knifeman slouched indolently behind the wheel. Murphy and the other
two gunmen were already getting into the rear seat, and Delancy went
cold with the sudden fear that his pals might run out on him. As fast as
his short bowed legs would carry him, he ran to the car and piled in
beside Shiv. The knifeman looked at Delancy and snickered.

"What's the rush, Delancy? You think Black Hood is on your tail?"

Delancy snarled, "Hell, no! But let's get going, huh?"

Now that Shiv had mentioned it, Delancy recognized the fear that plagued
him. It was fear of the Black Hood. The Black Hood wasn't like the cops
at all. He didn't trail a man with screaming sirens and blasting
whistles. He hunted like a panther in the night, alone and silent. And
you never knew just when the shadow of this master manhunter was to
fall across your path.



CHAPTER II

_Secret Traffic_


If Delancy had stayed a little longer at the scene of his crime, he
would have learned that his premonition was founded in truth. The Black
Hood _was_ hard on Delancy's heels that night. Advance notice of the
stick-up at the Weedham plant had sifted up through the underworld
grapevine to come eventually to Black Hood's ears. It had been very
scanty information and late in its arrival--too late to enable the
master manhunter to block the plan. All that Black Hood had learned was
that robbery of the Weedham factory had been planned, which wasn't
anything very definite considering that the Weedham Industries occupied
over fifty acres of ground.

When all hell broke loose at the south gate of the factory, Black Hood
was actually at the north-west corner of the grounds. A cat could
scarcely have seen him, lurking in the shadows, his tall figure shrouded
in a black silk cape, his head and face hidden by his famous hood. But
his position did give him one advantage over those actually at work in
the factory buildings--he could distinguish the rattle of gun fire from
the racket made by the stamping mill.

At the sound of the first shot, Black Hood had climbed to the top of the
high wire fence to leap into the factory grounds. Lightning had seen him
streaking through the open areas between buildings--a weird figure in
yellow tights, night-black shorts and hooded mask, his cape whipping out
from his broad shoulders. He might have been mistaken for a man from
Mars or a devil out of Hell, yet beneath the grotesque garb beat a heart
that was warm and human.

Black Hood knew what it was to be a policeman with hands bound by red
tape or political intrigue. He knew what it was to be a criminal, to be
hunted as Delancy was hunted. Once he had been a young cop, determined
to work his way up in the police force. One of the most diabolical
fiends of the underworld had framed this cop for a crime. The frame had
stuck. In his efforts to clear himself, the young cop had taken half a
dozen lead slugs from underworld guns into his body. He had been left
on a lonely mountain road, apparently dead, later to be found by that
wise, gray-whiskered man known as the Hermit.

It was the Hermit's vast store of scientific knowledge that brought the
half-dead cop back to health. It was the Hermit who gave the ex-cop a
body with the strength of steel and a mind that was a veritable
encyclopedia of scientific knowledge. It was the Hermit who had sent the
ex-cop back into the world to live a useful life, to strike back at the
denizens of the underworld who had harmed him.

So the Black Hood was born to live in two identities. By day he was a
pleasant, mild-mannered young man known as Kip Burland to Barbara
Sutton, Joe Strong, and others of their set. But at night Kip Burland
became the Black Hood, man of mystery, hunter of killers. Police who did
not understand the unorthodox methods of the Black Hood suspected him of
numerous crimes. The underworld that feared him wanted him dead. He was
the hunter hunted.

Once the secret of his dual identity became known, he knew that he faced
either death from the hands of criminals or prison from the hands of
police. Barbara Sutton, who merely tolerated Kip Burland, was deeply in
love with the Black Hood, yet even Barbara did not know that Kip and the
Black Hood were one and the same person.

Black Hood was not the only person at the Weedham plant who had heard
the gun fire at the south gate. Joe Strong, newly appointed cameraman on
Jeff Weedham's newspaper, had been standing at one of the doors of the
stamping mill, smoking a cigarette when the hold-up had taken place.
However, it required a few seconds for his dull brain to comprehend just
what was taking place and from what direction the shots had come.

Joe Strong had been trying to develop a nose for news. When he finally
realized what was going on at the south gate, he decided that here was a
chance for some swell pictures that would prove to Jeff Weedham and
Barbara Sutton that he was a natural born news hound. He ran from the
stamping mill, his camera bobbing from the strap around his neck and his
tripod dragging behind him. He had heard that a crack news photographer
could adjust a camera on the run and he figured that he could do that
and also mount the camera on the tripod at the same time.

It was a very good idea except that like most of the ideas that sprouted
slowly from Joe's brain, it didn't work. He was within fifteen yards of
the scene of the crime when he tripped over one leg of his tripod and
fell flat on his face.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he picked himself up, he saw something that knocked all ideas of
picture taking out of his thick skull. A brilliant blaze of lightning
showed him the unmistakable figure of the Black Hood bending over the
body of Joseph, the watchman. He saw Black Hood's gauntlet gloved hand
closed on the handle of the knife that was thrust into Joseph's neck.

Joe Strong had met Black Hood many times before, and, like the police,
Joe was convinced that Black Hood was a clever criminal. It occurred to
Joe in the darkness that followed the lightning flash, that it was Black
Hood who had stuck up the bank truck, slaughtered the guards, and was
just now in the act of finishing off Joseph, the only remaining witness
to his crime.

So natural was the position of old Joseph in his chair that Black Hood,
too, had made the mistake of thinking that the watchman was alive. He
had approached Joseph with the idea of learning something about the
escaping criminals. He turned, now, from the murdered gate keeper to see
Joe Strong bearing down upon him, fists balled, square teeth showing,
his wide, coarse-featured face a mask of determination. He knew that Joe
Strong, in spite of his clumsiness, could be a nasty opponent in a
scrap.

Joe closed in fast, led with his left fist in a blow that began way down
and ended exactly nowhere--nowhere, because Black Hood side-stepped both
the haymaker and Joe Strong.

"Gangway, muscle man!" Black Hood's voice rang out, and then like a slim
arrow unleashed from a taut drawn bow Black Hood sped up the tarvia
drive toward where the low slung roadster that belonged to Jeff Weedham
was parked.

Black Hood vaulted into the roadster without bothering to open the door.
Jeff Weedham had left the key in the ignition lock. The black gauntlet
covered fingers of the master manhunter gave the key a twist and at the
same time he plugged in the starter button. The motor responded
instantly. Black Hood brought the car around in a wide sweeping turn to
head back toward the gate, had to swerve to avoid hitting Joe Strong.

There were some of the admirable qualities of the bull dog about Joe
Strong. Once his one-track mind got to functioning on a certain
objective it seldom digressed. And at the present moment his was
determined to stop Black Hood. As the roadster passed, straightening out
of its loop turn, Joe leaped to the running board, seized the wheel in
one hand and tried to get Black Hood by the throat with the other. The
car left the drive as Joe yanked at the wheel. It bounded toward a round
bed of evergreens that beautified the factory grounds. Black Hood
released the wheel, stood up on the pedals, and at the same time slammed
Joe across the face with the back of his gauntlet covered left hand. The
blow, the sudden stopping of the car, combined effectively to give Joe
the shake. He went backwards, sailing through the air, to land in the
evergreen bed.

Black Hood let the clutch slap in and the roadster bounded back onto the
tarvia drive. Perhaps none but the steel-nerved Black Hood would have
tried to get through that factory gate, partially blocked as it was by
the crippled bank truck. But the master manhunter could have driven a
gas truck through Hell's own fire. Instead of slowing the car to squeeze
through the narrow opening, he tramped on the gas pedal and set his
teeth for the shock he knew was coming. Because he knew that the space
between truck and gate post was too narrow to allow the roadster to pass
unscarred.

The right front fender hit the brick of the gate post. There was a
scream of tortured metal as the fender was sheared from the body. The
impact dragged down on the speed of the roadster so that the rear right
fender was only crumpled by the brick work. But momentum was sufficient
to carry Jeff Weedham's roadster out onto the road.

Black Hood knew that the criminals had taken the road toward town. As
soon as he had reached the south gate he had ascertained this by a
glance at the gravel shoulder of the road. Whoever had been driving the
get-away car had started in a hurry so that one rear wheel threw gravel
in the opposite direction of travel. Just how much of a lead the rob and
kill men had on him, Black Hood did not know. But he did know that Jeff
Weedham's car was a gallant piece of machinery, capable of tremendous
speed and so nicely balanced that it could cling to sharp curves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Actually, only a few seconds had elapsed between the time when Delancy
and his killers had hit the road and the time when Black Hood had
arrived at the south gate. The man called Shiv was driving Delancy's
get-away car at a conservative pace so as not to excite suspicion. In
this Shiv showed more wisdom than did Delancy.

"You think you're going to a funeral?" Delancy demanded when his
patience could endure the pace no longer.

Shiv said, "But you'll be goin' to one if I open dis crate up. You want
speed cops on your tail, Delancy?"

"To hell with the cops," Delancy snarled. "Step it up a little."

Shiv speeded up to forty miles an hour as he rolled to the top of a
little hill. A mile or so distant the lights of one of New York's
suburbs twinkled in the darkness.

"We got lots of time," Shiv said. "You're noivous, Delancy. You got
ants. Up here at this next town we slide into a filling station and get
us a new paint job and new plates, all in the space of ten minutes. Like
I said before, dis job is a pipe."

Delancy didn't hear Shiv. He was twisted around in the front seat,
looking over the heads of Squid Murphy and the two other gunsels in the
back seat. Through the rear window, Delancy saw twin swords of light
from the lamps of another car not so far behind them.

"We're tailed now," he said hoarsely.

"Aw nuts!" Murphy said from the back seat. "We ought to make you get out
and walk. Every time you see a car behind you, you get the ants."

Delancy drew his tongue over dry lips. He said, "Take a look for
yourself, Murphy. That guy behind is burning asphalt off the road."

Murphy and the other hoods looked backwards. The car behind was a
roadster, they could see in a sudden splash of lightning. And it was
traveling like the wind.

Delancy opened the glove compartment in the instrument board and took
out a pair of field glasses. He got to his knees on the front seat,
turned around so that he could sight out the back window. He tried to
hold the speeding roadster in the range of the glasses, and when the
lightning came again he thought he could make out the figure of the
driver at the wheel. He thought that he saw a sleek rounded head closely
covered by a black silk hood. He was almost certain that he saw a black
silk cape whipping out from the shoulders of the lone man in the car.

Delancy got cold all over. He gripped Shiv's shoulder convulsively,
nearly sending his own car into the ditch by so doing.

"Step on it, Shiv," he said hoarsely. "I don't like the looks of that
guy in the car behind us."

"So you don't like the guy's hair-do!" Shiv sneered. "And I should kick
the bottom out of dis crate just because you don't like the looks of
somebody behind us!"

Delancy passed the glasses back to Squid Murphy.

"See what you see, Murphy," he said quietly. Then he turned around,
hauled out his gun, and shoved it into Shiv's ribs. "When I said step on
it, I wasn't fooling."

"Gees!" Murphy said. "That guy back there's got a hell of a thing on his
head. Looks like a hood."

"A black hood," Delancy said. "And I don't think I want to have anything
to do with that guy, do you, Shiv?"

Shiv came down on the gas pedal and the car picked up speed. He said,
"All right, all right! I'm steppin' on it, ain't I?"

If Delancy's car hadn't speeded up, Black Hood in the car behind might
not have taken particular notice of it. But that sudden spurt of speed
on the part of the gray sedan was a dead give-away. Black Hood knew that
he was hot on the trail.

The big gray sedan carrying Delancy and his pals, hit the suburban town
at a scant seventy miles an hour. It ran by three red lights without
shaking the roadster piloted by Black Hood. The streets were slippery
with rain that was sheeting out of the black sky, and when Shiv tried to
negotiate the next corner, the big sedan turned completely around.

Delancy thought then that the chase was over, but Shiv had a trick or
two up his sleeve. He spurted, took the car half way down the block,
heading in the very direction from which Black Hood was coming. Then
Shiv whipped his wheel around for a short turn into the mouth of an
alley.

Delancy breathed again. He could see where everything was going to be
all right now. The gray sedan bounced over the rough alley pavement, cut
across the street at the next block, and rolled onto the concrete area
in front of a large gas service station. The overhead doors beneath a
sign which advertised car washing by steam ran up on their track as the
gray sedan came into sight. Shiv steered into the wash room, and the
doors dropped back into place.

Delancy got out, his body bathed in a cold sweat. The proprietor of this
gas station was in the employ of Delancy's boss who had planned every
step of the stick-up at the Weedham plant and the subsequent get-away.
Delancy had supreme faith in his boss. For the first time since he had
sighted that strange figure in the roadster that had followed them, he
began to feel a little bit secure.

Delancy entered the filling station office, followed by his mob. The
proprietor, a huge bear of a man in brown coveralls, scowled at Delancy.
He said:

"The way you came in here, it's a wonder you didn't bring a whole squad
of cops with you. What's the matter, anyway?"

Delancy didn't answer just then. The proprietor of the station wasn't
alone in his office. There was a dame. She was a tall, well-dressed
woman with wax-pale skin and black hair that was parted in the middle
and slicked back to a soft knot. She had peculiarly cold green eyes that
were tilted at the outer extremities. Her lips were full, soft and
brilliantly rouged.

Delancy jerked his head at the woman and asked of the proprietor: "Who's
that, Burkey?"

Burkey shrugged big shoulders. "She's from the boss. She's got a message
for you."

The woman was beautiful. But there was something about the chilly
expression in her eyes that made Delancy feel decidedly uncomfortable.
She did not smile as she opened a black purse and produced an envelope
which she handed to Delancy.

While Burkey was opening the steam valves that would spray hot vapor on
the car in the wash room, Delancy tore open the letter which the woman
had handed him. Inside was a slip of paper on which had been typed the
following:

     "The bearer will ride with you into Manhattan."

There was no signature, but in its stead was the crude drawing of an
eye, formed by two bowed lines that represented lids and two circles,
one within the other, representing iris and pupil. Delancy knew that the
message was from that man he had never seen--the big boss, the man who
knew all the answers.

Delancy touched a match to the message. He looked at the woman with the
cold green eyes.

"What's the idea?" he asked.

"I suppose," she said in a quiet voice, "that it will look less
suspicious if you are seen driving a car with a woman beside you. Your
men are to get into the baggage trunk at the rear or else crouch down on
the floor of the rear compartment."

Delancy snorted. "That's nuts. There ain't any sense to this. It was a
clean job. We didn't mix with any coppers."

"No?" she said, elevating her eyebrows. "Nevertheless, you will carry
out the orders. The Eye knows what he's doing."



CHAPTER III

_Haven Of The Hunted_


Ten minutes later, Delancy drove the get-away car out of the service
station. It was a gray sedan no longer. It was a brilliant blue job with
red wheels, and it carried a Texas license. Delancy was at the wheel and
the woman with the cold green eyes rode beside him. Two of Delancy's
gunmen crouched out of sight on the floor of the rear compartment while
two more had been crowded into the luggage compartment at the rear.

As the car rolled on toward Manhattan's northern boundary, the woman
with the green eyes switched on the radio on the dash. All of the cars
used on stick-up jobs were furnished with receivers capable of picking
up police calls, and out of the corner of his eye, Delancy saw that the
woman was twisting the dial down to the police band.

"What's the idea?" Delancy asked. He wasn't particularly pleasant to
this woman who rode with him, largely because she treated him like the
dirt under her feet.

"I simply want to check up," she said coldly. "I want to know just how
clean that job was."

"Clean?" Delancy fumed. "Listen, lady, we knocked off every damned guy
who could have told anything about us. And there wasn't a copper in
sight. Why, I haven't seen a bull in so long I'd have to look twice to
recognize one."

"That may be," she admitted, "but I want to make sure."

"Listen," Delancy said, now thoroughly angry, "how do you get that way?
Who the hell are you, checking up on me? You the Eye's moll?"

"Moll?" questioned the woman. "I do not understand."

"You don't understand!" Delancy scoffed. "Listen, babe, don't get
high-hat with me or I'll slap you down."

"You would not be so foolish," she said scornfully. "The Eye would tear
you into small pieces. He would--"

The flat voice of a police announcer came from the radio speaker and
interrupted the threat:

"Warning to all cars. Be on the lookout for blue Buick sedan, nineteen
thirty-nine model, red wheels, being driven by Raymond Delancy. Delancy
is wanted for hold-up and murder. Wanted for hold-up and murder, Ray
Delancy, height five feet eight inches, weighing one hundred eighty
pounds--"

Delancy's hand shot out to the radio switch, cutting off the voice of
the announcer. It was impossible! There had been no police at the
Weedham plant. No cops had tailed them. No cops had seen that the gray
sedan which had driven into Burkey's filling station had come out a blue
sedan.

"A clean job, you said?" the woman with the green eyes mocked.

One of the gunmen who crouched on the floor of the rear compartment
cursed quietly and without interruption for nearly a minute. Delancy
tramped nervously on the gas pedal.

"Don't worry, anybody," he said. "The heat's on, and I don't know how
the hell the cops got that way, but it ain't the first time I've given
them the shake. We'll go to Jack Carlson's garage. He'll get us out of
this. It'll cost something, but hell, we've got lots of dough."

Delancy drove as though he was rolling on thin ice. The sight of a
traffic cop made him dodge around a corner that threw him off his
course. He came close to having convulsions when a squad car passed on
the next street west, its siren wailing. He told the boys in the back
seat to get their guns out, just in case they had to shoot it out. But
somehow all of his anxiety was wasted, and he at last sighted a neon
sign which read:

    "ATLAS AUTO LIVERY"

Delancy turned the sedan through the door of the big garage, rolled
across the wide parking floor to the cement ramp at the rear. He got
into second gear and zoomed up the ramp to the second floor. Then he got
out of the car, walked to the office which was partitioned off from the
rest of the floor by means of frosted glass. The door of the office
carried the words, "Jack Carlson, President."

Carlson had started out as the operator of a wildcat bus company. In
this business he had learned so many ways to circumvent the law that he
had decided to put that knowledge to more lucrative uses. Under the
cover of a legitimate auto livery and trucking business, he had built a
vast transportation system which was employed by any criminal who was
wanted by the police and could afford to pay Carlson's fee. When the
town got too hot for a killer or stick-up artist, Jack Carlson had many
tricks up his sleeve which would enable the wanted man to move to a
cooler spot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Delancy entered Carlson's reception room which was never closed. At the
invitation of the blonde stenographer at the desk, he squatted on a
chair and lighted a cigarette. Jack Carlson entered the room a moment
later, walking with the energetic bounce of a busy man.

Carlson was a little above medium height, dark complexioned, his brow a
washboard of horizontal wrinkles. He had a waxed mustache which he was
in the habit of twisting whenever in deep thought.

"Well, well, well," he said cheerfully as he shook hands with Delancy.
"Some little trouble bothering you tonight, Ray?"

Delancy scowled. He couldn't see that there was anything to be cheerful
about.

"The boys and I pulled a little job," he said. "It didn't amount to a
whole lot, but I think there's a leak somewhere in our organization.
The cops got the heat on us, and we'd like a hand out of town for a few
days."

Carlson went to his desk, sat down, stuck a slim cigar in his well
formed lips.

"How much was your job?" he asked quietly as he struck a match.

"Not much," Delancy said. "Maybe ten grand at the outside." He purposely
lied about the take because Carlson usually charged on the percentage
basis. Another thing which was inclined to influence Carlson's price was
that little business of murder. If you killed on a job Carlson
considered the danger greater and pushed up his fee accordingly.

"Anybody knocked off, Ray?" Jack Carlson asked.

Delancy squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. "One of the boys had to
shoot a guard in the leg. Nothing messy, though."

Carlson inhaled deeply. A faint smile came to his lips. He removed his
cigar and waved it at Delancy.

"So you got only ten grand, Ray? And nobody knocked off?"

"That's what I said," Delancy crabbed.

Carlson chuckled. "I happen to know that a number of men were killed,
that you're wanted for murder, and that your total take was about
seventy-five thousand dollars. And it'll cost you just thirty-two
thousand five hundred dollars of that money to get you out of the jam."

"Thirty-two thousand--" Delancy gasped.

Carlson waved his cigar. "But for that price I'll see that you and all
your boys get a nice cool spot to hideout in, somewhere a long way from
New York."

Delancy stood up. "Why you damned greaseball, you! I'd see you in hell
first. Pay fifty per cent of my take to you and the usual ten per cent
to the Eye for his part of the job! Hell, that leaves me a lousy forty
per cent without counting the split to the boys."

"Take it or leave it," Carlson shrugged.

"I'll leave it!" Delancy rapped. "Why, damn you, that's robbery!"

"And your crime was murder," Carlson said. He twisted his mustache
thoughtfully. "I think you'll take my offer, Delancy, because there just
isn't any other out for you."

Delancy's scowl deepened. His eyes narrowed. An idea was beginning to
roll around inside his head. He didn't know exactly what he ought to do
with it, but it was an idea, anyway.

He said, "You think there's no other out for me, huh? Well, I'll make an
out before I'll pay any such figure to you. And listen, fellah, if I
thought--" He stopped a moment, dropped his cigarette onto the carpet
and heeled it out. "Well anyway, Carlson, I'm going to have a little
talk with the Eye. And that little talk is going to be about you and the
rotten deal you tried to hand me."

"Go ahead and talk," Carlson said. "And when the cops start closing in
on you and your mob, let me know. I'll get you out of the jam for the
same figure."

Carlson got up, walked around his desk to where Delancy stood in front
of the door. He stuck out his hand.

"No hard feelings, Ray?"

Delancy looked down at the hand and sneered.

"No hard feelings, chiseler, but I sure would like to put a couple of
slugs in your belly!" And Delancy swaggered out of the office. He
guessed he'd told that chiseler where he got off.

As soon as the door had closed, Jack Carlson bounded back to his desk,
touched a button on an inter-office communications box. Somebody on the
lower floor of the garage answered.

Carlson said, "Ray Delancy is just leaving. I want him tailed."



CHAPTER IV

_Live Steam_


The Black Hood had reached a dead-end in the trail which had led him
from the Weedham Industries plant. The gray sedan in which the fleeing
criminals were riding had vanished, apparently into thin air. Black Hood
had spent thirty minutes of search at break-neck speed in an attempt to
pick up the trail of the gray sedan again. He had driven the roadster
which belonged to Jeff Weedham in and out of alleys in a trial and error
effort to sight the killers' car, but all without success.

It occurred to him then that it was entirely possible that the rob and
kill boys had not left the suburban town at all. Perhaps this was their
hideout. With that in mind, he parked Jeff Weedham's car and stepped out
into the rain, his black cape wrapped around him. He felt that he could
walk the streets in comparative safety in spite of his costume, for it
would have required close inspection under direct light to distinguish
the garb he wore from the standard poncho and rain-hood worn by the
traffic police in bad weather.

After an hour or more of leg work that yielded him no information so far
as a possible hideout for the criminals was concerned, Black Hood came
across the drunk. The drunk was in a dismal alley, leaning up against
the wall of a tavern which he had evidently just left. He was a young
man, and he wore some sort of a uniform--that of a chauffeur, taxi
driver, or something of the sort. When Black Hood put in his appearance,
the young man started to move along up the alley, staggering as he
walked.

"Wait a minute," Black Hood called.

"'S all right, officer," the drunk said, mistaking Black Hood for a cop.
"I'm on my way. I'm goin' home."

"You think you'll get there, weaving around that way?" Black Hood asked,
catching up with the man. "If you don't fall asleep under the wheels of
a truck you'll be mighty lucky."

"Only live a block from here," the drunk explained. "I'll make it. I
gotta skin full, all right. Never been drunk before, so help me,
officer. But Burkey fired me because he said I was drunk when I wasn't.
A man's gotta live up to his reputation, don't he?"

"Who's Burkey?" Black Hood asked. He was determined to see that the
young drunk got safely home.

"Runs the Super-Charged Gasoline Station two blocks south of here. He
said he wouldn't have a drunk working for him, but I was cold sober when
it happened."

"When what happened?" Black Hood linked his arm with that of the young
man.

"I was out at the gas pumps when a gray sedan barreled into the station
and in onto the wash rack," the young man explained. "Burkey brought the
doors down in the wash room and turned on the steam. About ten minutes
later, the gray sedan drove out the other side of the wash room, and it
wasn't gray any more. It was blue--blue with red wheels."

At the mention of a gray sedan traveling fast, Black Hood's interest
increased.

"Maybe," he suggested, "there were two cars in the wash room."

"Can't be," the young man said. "There's only room for one at a time. I
went to Burkey and asked him how it happened that a car would change
color like that. He said it hadn't changed color and if I thought it had
I must be drunk. So he fired me. But I was cold sober, I tell you. And
I'd like to know what I'm going to do and what my widowed mother is
going to do with me out of a job."

Black Hood reached inside his cape. The broad black belt which he wore
contained many secret pockets, and from one of these he extracted a
ten-dollar bill. He pressed the money into the young man's hand.

"That'll tide you over until you can find a job," he said. "Think you
can get across the street all right?"

They had reached the end of the alley by this time, and the young drunk
had said that his home was just on the other side of the street. The
drunk stared at the crumpled bill in his hand. Then he raised his eyes
to Black Hood's face. In the glow from a nearby street lamp he could
clearly see the black mask that covered the upper part of Black Hood's
face to the tip of his nose. The drunk was startled.

"Who--who are you?" he stammered.

Black Hood laughed. "Never mind, son. Just forget you ever saw me." Then
he turned and ran back along the alley to walk quickly in the direction
of the gas station where the drunk had worked, two blocks to the south.

The overhead door of the car washing room was open, and as Black Hood
entered it he glanced through the glass pane of the door connecting this
portion of the service station with the office. A big, shaggy-haired man
in brown overalls had just picked up the telephone from his battered,
grease-stained desk. This man would be Burkey, the owner of the station.

Black Hood's keen eyes flicked around the room in which he now stood. At
the back, near a stand that racked a number of grease guns, he saw a
second telephone fixed to the wall. An extension of the one in the
office, he wondered?

He crossed to the wall phone and gently removed the receiver from its
hook and held it to his ear. He heard a gruff voice which might well
have been that of the man Burkey, say: "Is this the Eye?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Black Hood's eyes narrowed. The voice that came back over the wire was a
toneless whisper.

"This is the Eye speaking."

Burkey said, "Delancy came through here about a couple of hours ago."

"Delancy?" the Eye said. "Yes, I know."

"I changed paint jobs for him according to instructions," Burkey
explained. "But what I called you about, I got a young fellow working
here, grinding gas. He saw the gray sedan roll in here and he saw that
it was blue when it went out. He came to me to ask how come."

"What did you do?" the Eye whispered.

"Told him he was drunk and fired him," Burkey replied.

"That was careless of you," the voice whispered after the pause of a
moment. "Very careless. You should have silenced this man at once."

Burkey said, "How the hell could I do that?"

"That is your problem," the whisperer said. "But you must dispose of him
immediately, do you understand?"

"Is that an order?"

"That is an order," the Eye whispered grimly, and broke the connection.

Black Hood hung up quietly. Then crouching low, he crossed the room to
where the strainer top of the sewer drain was placed in the concrete
floor. It was in this room that Delancy's get-away car had changed paint
jobs, and in about ten minutes. How was such a thing possible?

He dropped to his knees, nerves tense as he lifted the strainer plate.
Dove gray particles clung to the sewer opening beneath--particles of
some sort of paint that was soluble in water or perhaps live steam. A
glint of understanding came into his eyes. Delancy had driven the
get-away car into this room. The car actually was not a gray car at all.
It was a blue car, the paint covered with this gray, steam soluble
substance. All that was necessary to convert the car which Black Hood
had been following into a blue car which he certainly would have missed
was a good bath of steam. It wouldn't have required more than ten
minutes at the outside.

A rumbling sound that did not originate in the thunder caps above jerked
Black Hood's attention from the drain. His glance darted toward the
overhead doors which were dropping swiftly into place. His eyes turned
toward the door leading into the service station office. Burkey, the
proprietor, was standing at the door, watching Black Hood through the
glass. There was a diabolical grin on the face of the station owner.

Black Hood straightened as the overhead doors fell into place and
locked. He took two long, springy strides toward the door. But he never
quite reached that door. With an explosive hiss, gray jets of live steam
erupted from pipes around the edge of the room. Scalding steam that
could burn and blister and boil human flesh.

Black Hood fell back from the door, staggered by his first contact with
that hissing gray hell. He threw back his head, looked above at steam
pipes that criss-crossed overhead. And then Burkey manipulated the valve
that controled the overhead pipes, and the steam poured down upon Black
Hood from above.

He couldn't see now, because of the steam. He dared not open his eyes
lest the heat blind him permanently. But in that brief glimpse upward,
Black Hood had marked the location of one of the steam pipes. He
crouched, nerves and muscles tense, controled in spite of the torturous
cloud of scalding vapor that pressed close to him. Suddenly, he
unleashed all the pent-up power of flexed legs, leaped into the air, one
gauntlet protected hand out-thrust for the pipe which he knew was there
even if he could not see it. Fingers grasped, held like steel hooks. He
drew himself up with one powerful arm until his other hand could join
its mate.

The intense heat penetrated the leather palms of his black gauntlets.
Still he hung on, drawing himself upward to hook a leg over the very
pipe that threatened to boil him alive. He understood now why the
Hermit, that wise old man who had nursed him from the very jaws of
death, had been so insistent upon regular muscular exercise. The power
to save himself was there in the muscles of back, legs and arms. It was
there, waiting for just such moments of danger as these.

Gradually, he hauled himself to the pipe above, got his feet onto the
pipe and stood erect, his hands reaching up to the rafters to maintain
his balance. And there he waited in that hot gray cloud that pressed to
the roof where it condensed and fell like warm rain. His body was safe
from direct contact with the blistering jets of steam.

At last the steam was shut off, the gray clouds dissipated. Cautiously,
Burkey unlocked the door which connected the car washing room with his
office. He stepped out, doubtless expecting to find Black Hood curled up
on the floor, all consciousness driven from him by the pain of countless
steam burns. The Black Hood, watching from the pipes above, showed white
teeth in a wide grin.

"Look up, Burkey!" he sang out.

And as the big service station proprietor raised startled eyes, the
Black Hood let go of the rafters, took a dive from the pipe straight at
the man below. He caught Burkey at the throat and shoulders with his
hands. The driving weight of him crushed the big man to the floor,
knocked the breath out of him. And for a moment Black Hood just sat
there on top of Burkey, holding him in his powerful grasp.

"How does it feel to be utterly helpless, Burkey?" he said quietly. "You
see what I can do with you? I can choke the life out of you this way."
The fingers of his right hand constricted on Burkey's throat until the
man's eyes crawled a little way out of their sockets. Then he eased his
grip a little.

"Or I could dash your brains out against the floor like this."

And Black Hood seized Burkey's shaggy hair and bounced the filling
station operator's head against the floor a couple of times.

       *       *       *       *       *

Burkey said nothing. Black Hood slapped him hard across the side of the
face with his gauntlet covered hand. Burkey winced, squirmed a little.
Then realizing that he was completely at the Black Hood's mercy, he lay
still.

"Talk!" Black Hood said. "Who is the Eye?"

"I don't know," Burkey croaked. "I've never seen him. I don't know who
he is. You could kill me maybe, but you couldn't make me talk."

"What was that telephone number you just called?" Black Hood persisted.

Burkey's eyes rolled. "I can't tell you. The Eye would kill me if I
told."

Black Hood laughed harshly. "And what do you think I'm going to do if
you _don't_ talk?"

Burkey said nothing.

Black Hood got off the man, stood up. He told Burkey to get to his feet.

"And you'd better get your fists up, Burkey, because if you don't I'm
liable to knock your head off."

Possibly Burkey knew something about boxing. Possibly he had gone a
round or two with some second rate slugger some time in his life. But
certainly he had never fought with anybody who could equal the Black
Hood in speed and fire power. Black Hood's fists were everywhere at
once. His long arms were like rapiers, striking through Burkey's guard
to land time after time in the big man's face.

Finally, Burkey crumpled against the wall, one eye closed, the other
looking sleepy. Blood was dripping from nose and mouth.

"Talk!" Black Hood demanded, one closed fist raised like a hammer above
the man's head.

Burkey simply shook his head feebly and collapsed, unconscious.

Black Hood made a swift but careful search of the filling station office
without revealing anything in the way of incriminating evidence. If
Burkey knew the Eye's telephone number he apparently kept it in his
head.

Black Hood found a short length of chain and a padlock which was used to
keep anyone from tampering with one of the oil pumps that topped a steel
drum. He returned to the car washing room, scooped the keys out of the
unconscious Burkey's pockets. Then he chained and locked the filling
station man to the steel cross member of the wash rack. Then he went
into the office, telephoned police headquarters. When the desk sergeant
had answered, he said:

"If you will send men to the Super-Charged Gas station here in your
city, you will find the proprietor, a man named Burkey. I suggest that
he be questioned in conjunction with the activities of the criminal
organizer known as the Eye, and especially in his connection with the
killing and robbery at the Weedham Industries plant tonight."

"Who is this?" the desk sergeant demanded.

Black Hood chuckled. "You'll never find out!" And then he hung up, left
the station to vanish into the murk of the rain swept night.

It must have been at about this time that Joe Strong, that demon
photographer on the staff of Jeff Weedham's paper, _The Daily Opinion_,
made a startling discovery. He was in the dark room at the newspaper
office with Barbara Sutton, developing films which he had exposed at the
Weedham factory that night.

He turned from his developing traps to face Barbara. The broad grin on
his coarse features was illuminated by the ruby light hanging above
their heads.

"Honey," Joe said, "I got something that's going to set little old New
York right back on its heels. I've got positive proof that will identify
the dirty bum who's behind this crime wave. Positive evidence that will
point to the killer of that watchman at the Weedham plant tonight."

There was a skeptical gleam in Barbara's beautiful eyes. Since she had
been working on the newspaper with Joe Strong assigned as her pix man,
she had heard just such claims from Joe before. He was always turning up
a picture that was to be the scoop of the week and which usually
developed into a fogged film of no use to anybody.

She said, "Well, if you have you'd better turn it over to the editor
before you bungle the developing some way. Jeff Weedham is going to have
to pull something pretty soon to pick up circulation. He's got to prove
to his father that he can run this business. If he fails at this job as
he has at every other, I understand Mr. Weedham is going to cut Jeff off
from the Weedham fortune."

Joe stuck his thumbs in the arm holes of his vest.

"Jeff's worries are over, permanently. This is the scoop of the week. We
got the guy red handed. Take a look, beautiful."

Joe held up the negative strip which he had just developed. He pointed a
thick forefinger at the exposure near the end of the strip. Joe didn't
quite understand how he had got the picture unless that flare of
lightning had acted as a flashlight bulb and the lens of his camera had
been open at the time. But no matter how he had obtained it, there was
the picture.

It showed the unmistakable figure of Black Hood standing over Joseph,
the Weedham gate keeper. It showed more than that. It showed Black
Hood's gauntlet covered right hand grasping the knife that was plunged
into Joseph's throat.

Barbara raised her hand to her mouth to check a startled cry. She stared
at the negative and repeatedly shook her head.

"I don't believe it," she whispered. "He wouldn't do such a thing. It's
a trick, Joe. You're trying to trick me."

"Not me," Joe said. "Just because you're in love with Black Hood you're
trying to kid yourself. I always said that guy was a crook. And now
there's proof. He's the Eye. He's the brains behind all this robbery and
murder that resulted in looted banks and jewelry stores. The camera
don't lie, Babs. And this little picture catches Mr. Hood with the goods
on him."

Barbara's indrawn breath sounded like a sob. She turned quickly and ran
from the dark room. Was it true? Could it possibly be true? Black Hood
had always told her that he was an outlaw, and she had loved him in
spite of that because of the many good and brave things he had done to
defend people against the criminals of the underworld.

But if Black Hood _was_ guiltless--this had never occurred to Barbara
before--if he was actually guiltless, why had he never let her see his
face?



CHAPTER V

_The Brand Of Light_


But Barbara Sutton _had_ seen the face of the Black Hood. She saw it on
the following night when a group of wealthy and influential citizens met
at Gracelawn, the West End Avenue estate of William Weedham. Barbara saw
Black Hood's face without knowing it, for in the identity of Kip Burland
he had been with her all evening.

It was a pleasant face, sun-bronzed and well-formed, with waving brown
hair and eyes that could be gentle and compassionate. Kip Burland had
taken Barbara to dinner, much to the annoyance of Joe Strong, and later
in the evening they had picked up Joe and driven in Barbara's car to the
Weedham home.

Barbara was obviously deeply concerned over the evidence which Joe
Strong had accidently turned up. The picture of Black Hood in the
apparent act of thrusting a knife into the throat of the Weedham
Industries watchman, had been plastered all over the front page of Jeff
Weedham's _Daily Opinion_. Other newspapers had taken up the cry,
demanding that the Black Hood be taken dead or alive.

When Barbara mentioned this news story to Kip Burland, Kip scarcely knew
what was the wisest course to pursue. If he defended the Black Hood he
ran the risk of exciting suspicion. The secret that Kip Burland and the
Black Hood were one and the same persons was more precious than ever,
now that Black Hood was wanted for murder.

"There's just one thing, Babs," he told the girl as they drove to the
Weedham home, "nobody can tell me that Black Hood and this criminal
genius known as the Eye are the same. I can't believe it."

"Listen, Burland," Joe Strong put in angrily, "you're not sitting there
and calling me a liar, either. All these stick-up jobs recently have
been planned by the Eye. You'll agree to that, no doubt. That one last
night at the Weedham works was the same sort of a thing--every possible
witness murdered. And I not only saw the Black Hood with my own eyes,
but I took a picture of him. And then he and I had a little scrap."

"How does it happen the Black Hood isn't right down in Tombs prison
now?" Kip Burland asked mildly.

"Well, er," Joe stammered, "some of his men pitched in on me from
behind. There must have been three of them, anyway."

Burland could scarcely repress a laugh.

"Only three? Why, you're slipping, aren't you, Joe?"

The bickering might have gone on the rest of the evening except that
Barbara Sutton told them they were both being very foolish. If Kip
didn't stop his arguing, she wouldn't vouch for him at this meeting
tonight at the Weedham home. She and Joe were to cover the meeting for
_The Daily Opinion_, but she had simply brought Kip along as a friend,
trusting that that would be enough to get him in.

Barbara Sutton's name was a prominent one in social circles as was that
of Joe Strong, so that there was no difficulty gaining admittance into
the Weedham home for Kip Burland. In the magnificent reception hall, Kip
was introduced to Jeff Weedham. The lanky heir to the Weedham wealth was
cordial.

"D-d-don't see why you want to sit in on a stuffy meeting like this
just for pleasure," Jeff Weedham said, smiling, "but I can assure you
that any friend of Barbara's is a friend of mine."

       *       *       *       *       *

The tall oak door of the library was opened by William Weedham
himself--a plump, white-haired man with black, overhanging eyebrows.

"Son," he said to Jeff, "we're all ready to begin. As the owner of a
newspaper which is instrumental in molding public opinion, you ought to
welcome this opportunity to serve your community."

Jeff Weedham laughed. "Since the Eye or the Black Hood, whatever his
name is, swiped my roadster, d-d-don't you think I'm not interested in
laying him by the heels, D-d-dad."

William Weedham brought scowling eyes to focus upon Kip Burland.

"I don't believe I know this young man," he said.

Jeff said, "This is Kip Burland, a friend of mine, D-d-dad. He wants a
try-out as a reporter. And I thought I'd let him help cover this
business together with Joe and Barbara."

And that fixed it up. With a whispered warning to Kip to try and look
like a would-be reporter, Jeff Weedham led Burland into the library. The
elder Weedham took his place at the head of a long refectory table about
which were seated six men. Some of those included in the committee which
had been formed to take protective measures against the master criminal
known as the Eye, were familiar to Kip Burland. There was short, beefy
Sergeant McGinty, a representative from the police who was to serve as
coordinator. McGinty, Kip Burland knew well enough, was the most ardent
enemy of the Black Hood on the police force.

Then there was a cocky little man with sandy hair and one glass eye. He
was Major Paxton, a retired army man and brother-in-law of William
Weedham. Paxton made his home at the Weedham estate and quite naturally
had been included in the group.

The tall, grim man with the long side whiskers was Harold Adler, an
executive of the Bankers Express service. Certainly he had a grievance
against the Eye after that attack on his guards and armored truck at the
Weedham plant on the night before.

Kip Burland also recognized the handsome, energetic man with the sleek
black hair and small, waxed mustache. This was Jack Carlson who operated
the Atlas Auto Livery and some sort of a trucking concern. Just exactly
why Carlson should have been called into this group, Kip did not know.
He knew something of Carlson's past, perhaps more than even Sergeant
McGinty did, and there were some blotches of shadow on Mr. Carlson's
life story.

William Weedham rapped the meeting to order, remarked briefly that they
had come here tonight to see if some definite plan could not be formed
to cope with the ever rising danger of a major crime wave, planned and
directed by this man who called himself the Eye.

"We are fortunate," the elder Weedham said, "in having Mr. Carlson with
us tonight. It has been frequently said by the police that if taxi
companies and other common carriers would cooperate with the law more
closely, there would be much less chance for the criminal to escape. Mr.
Carlson has a message for us which I hope will be representative of all
members of all taxi and transport systems."

"It seems to me," Major Paxton put in, his small body swelling with
importance, "that the crux of the whole matter lies in the fact that
these criminals, who are operating under the direction of the Eye, have
discovered some fool proof means of escaping from the scene of their
crime. Is that correct, Sergeant McGinty?"

McGinty's face reddened. "I don't know whether you'd call it the crux or
not, Major, but in any crime if a criminal has some fool proof means of
escape, as you put it, there isn't a whole lot the police can do about
it."

Somebody snickered. It was obvious that Major Paxton's remark hadn't
been a particularly bright one.

"But I'll say this," the sergeant went on, "this fellow the Eye, and I
prefer to call him the Black Hood, has developed a means of moving
criminals beyond our reach to a hell of a high point." The sergeant
coughed and apologized for his bit of profanity. "I mean, he's got a
hole in the police dragnet big enough so you could drive a whole
mechanized division of the army through it. If Jack Carlson can throw
any light on the matter, I'd like to hear him do it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jack Carlson stood up, smiled smoothly, and bobbed his head to Sergeant
McGinty.

"I think, gentlemen," he began, "that you will find few taxi operators
in the city of New York who would not gladly assist in halting an
escaping criminal if they were given the opportunity. And the same goes
for any other common carrier--the railroads, bus service, and airlines.
At the same time, common carriers are obliged by law not to discriminate
against a prospective passenger just because he may look suspicious:
That is, if I am driving a cab and a man rushes out of a bank with what
I may interpret as a look of guilt upon his face, I cannot refuse to
take him as a fare. Nor can I very well ask for his finger prints and
check up to see if he has a criminal record before taking him to his
destination."

"We know all that, Carlson," Harold Adler said. "Suppose you tell these
men what you told me before the meeting."

Carlson frowned, remained dramatically silent for a moment while he
twisted his mustache. Kip Burland watched the man closely. If this was
acting, Carlson was a remarkable actor. Somehow, he could not trust the
man nor the words that came from his mouth.

Carlson said, "The Eye has not only organized the various mobs of gunmen
in this city, but he has accomplished something else. He has established
a perfect underground railway for transporting these criminals from one
place to another in secret. I know, because the Eye personally asked me
to handle that part of his business for him."

There was another dramatic pause. Then Sergeant McGinty sprang to his
feet.

"Say, Mr. Carlson, if the Eye approached you personally let's have it
right now. Is the Eye this same guy known as the Black Hood?"

Carlson smiled. "It would seem so from the picture which appeared this
morning in the Daily Opinion."

"Yeah," Joe Strong put in. "That's the picture I took."

No one was paying any attention to Joe. All eyes were focused upon Jack
Carlson.

"Understand," Carlson continued, "I did not meet the Eye face to face.
He called me on the telephone, spoke to me in a whispering voice. He
asked me if I would be interested in a money-making proposition. I
played him along, tried to draw him out. He wanted me to employ cars and
trucks for the secret transportation of criminals and in exchange I was
to get a cut of the money which would be looted by his criminals."

"And," Weedham said, "you believe that some transportation company in
this city is actually assisting the Eye in this business?"

"Undoubtedly," Carlson said. "I, of course, rejected his offer. I was
attempting to figure out a plan by which I might trace this call to the
Eye's hideout, but that's quite difficult with these dial phones, you
know.

"But that is how the Eye is working his get-aways. He probably has
carefully placed stations all over the city where criminals who are
fleeing from some crime can get a fast car, or hide in some unsuspicious
looking truck to be transported beyond the reach of the law. It would
appear to me--"

Every light in the big room suddenly went out. Smothering blackness
dropped like a shroud over those at the refectory table and upon Barbara
Sutton, Joe Strong, Kip Burland, and Jeff Weedham who were seated along
one wall.

"D-d-damn!" Jeff Weedham stuttered. "What's this--the well known
blackout?"

A white beam of light stabbed through the French windows at the end of
the room, spotted the wall directly above Jack Carson's sleek head. In
the center of the spot was a crude sign, projected in black lines upon
the wall. It was like a child's drawing of a human eye, round, staring,
and at the same time infinitely menacing.

Kip Burland was on his feet while the others remained spellbound by the
brand of light. Watching the projected sign of the eye upon the wall, he
nevertheless moved swiftly and silently toward the French windows.

The sign of the Eye flicked out, and in its place was a message in black
letters:

    CARLSON HAS DEFIED ME.
    HE WILL DIE.

Burland waited for no more, but slipped through the French windows and
onto the terrace. The white beam of light rayed out from a thick grove
of shrubs and small trees on the other side of the big yard. Kip Burland
raced across the lawn toward the source of the light.



CHAPTER VI

_The Lady In White_


Half way toward the thicket, Kip Burland saw that the light had gone
out. But he had marked the spot from which it had originated, and in
another moment he had broken through the tangled branches of the shrubs
to the place from which the light ray had come. He saw no one. He
stopped, listening. On his left he heard the crackling of twigs. He
moved quickly in that direction, saw now a wraithlike figure in white.

"Hello there."

It was the soft voice of a woman who called. Kip Burland took a few more
cautious steps in the direction of the figure in white. Now that his
eyes were more used to the gloom, he could see that the woman was not
alone. There was a man standing beside her.

"Hello," Kip responded calmly. He took a box of matches from his pocket,
struck one, and held it high. The woman wore a white evening gown. Her
beautifully molded face was nearly as white as her dress. Her hair was
black as India ink, drawn back from her rounded forehead to knot softly
at the back of her head. Her eyes were cool green with an exotic lift at
the outer extremities of the lids.

The man beside her was evidently her chauffeur, judging from his
uniform. He was a dark, somber looking man with a particularly ugly scar
on his chin.

The woman smiled--a smile that did not quite reach her green eyes.

"Are you the man with the flashlight who was out here a moment ago?" she
asked.

Kip's eyes narrowed. He wondered if the woman was beating him to the
draw. He might have asked her, and with better reason, if it was she who
had turned that beam of light on the Weedham house.

The match burned out in Kip's fingers. He tossed the stub of it aside.

"Obviously I'm not the man with the flashlight," he said evenly, "or I
would not have had to light a match just now."

"How silly of me," the woman with the green eyes laughed. "Of course you
are not. But I am so anxious to find my little locket. I am Vida
Gervais, and I live just over the wall in the next house. I think I lost
my little locket while walking here this afternoon. I hoped that you
were the man with the flashlight and could help me find it."

"Don't you find that gown something of a liability hunting in this
jungle?" Kip asked. Her explanation was entirely too glib to suit him.

But before she could form an answer, the whip-crack of a shot rang out
from the direction of the Weedham house. The woman who had introduced
herself as Vida Gervais uttered a short, sharp cry. Then she and her
chauffeur turned and fled.

Kip Burland thrashed his way through the bushes to the border of the
thicket. In the dim night glow, he saw a man running toward the house
and a second figure that lay huddled on the lawn in front of the terrace
steps. Burland could not be absolutely certain, but he thought that the
running man was Jack Carlson. There were hoarse shouts from the
immediate vicinity of the house, and Kip recognized the bellow of Joe
Strong and the harsh rasping voice of Sergeant McGinty.

Kip broke away from the shrubbery and ran across the open lawn toward
that point where the man lay on the ground. The second figure, which he
thought was Jack Carlson, was now kneeling beside the fallen man.

In another moment, Kip saw that his first impression had been correct.
The second man was Carlson. He looked up at Kip, his face chalk white in
the uncertain light.

"He's dead," Carlson said. "He's been shot."

Burland dropped beside Jack Carlson, brought out his matches, struck
one. The man on the ground was wearing an ordinary business suit. He was
entirely bald, with a large, shapeless nose and chubby cheeks. He was
lying on one side, his left arm extended. Clutched in the dead fingers
of his left hand was a yellow slip of paper. It looked like bank check
paper to Burland.

Others were coming from around the side of the house--Jeff Weedham and
Barbara Sutton. Behind them came Major Paxton and two other members of
the committee.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kip Burland shot a glance at Jack Carlson, saw that the latter was
looking in the direction of the newcomers. Kip thrust out a hand toward
the piece of yellow paper in the fingers of the corpse. It was so rapid
a movement that even if Carlson had been watching him it is doubtful if
the auto livery operator could have caught it. Kip jerked the piece of
paper from the hand of the dead man, and stood up.

By the time Barbara and Jeff Weedham had joined them, Burland had rolled
the slip of yellow paper into a cylinder and placed it inside the cap of
his fountain pen.

"Kip!" Barbara gasped. "What's happened?"

"Someone seems to have been shot," he replied mildly. "I don't know just
who."

Jeff Weedham had a flashlight. He turned the beam on the face of the
dead man.

"D-d-damn!" he stammered. "It's Biggert. Poor old Biggert. Why, he's
D-d-dad's private secretary. Attended to everything for D-d-dad."

William Weedham, Adler, and the rest of the committee men hurried from
the corner of the house.

"Biggert, did you say?" William Weedham gasped. "Good lord! Where's that
Sergeant McGinty?" And then Weedham dropped beside the dead man, looked
long and searchingly into the immobile face.

Sergeant McGinty put in his appearance a moment later and with him was
Joe Strong. He was holding onto Joe by the ear.

"Try your football tackles on me, will you!" McGinty was growling, while
Joe was trying to break away without losing an ear.

"Aw, Sergeant, how did I know it was you prowling around in all that
dark?" Joe complained.

It was evident that Joe had made another of his unfortunate mistakes.
But McGinty forgot and forgave when he saw the body of Biggert lying
there on the lawn. The sergeant bent his thick knees, took Jeff
Weedham's flashlight, turned it on the corpse.

"It was obviously a mistake," Jack Carlson was explaining smoothly. "The
killer had no designs on Biggert, certainly."

"Huh?" McGinty looked up, his red face contorted by a puzzled frown.
"What do you mean, it was a mistake?"

"This is obviously the Eye's work," Carlson explained. "I was standing
just about in this spot when this man Biggert came running around the
house and directly in front of me. That was when the shot was fired. The
bullet was intended for me. You would expect as much after the Eye's
warning."

McGinty nodded his head. "Could be. And believe me, Mr. Carlson, you'd
better put yourself under police protection."

"I can take care of myself, thanks," Carlson insisted. As he turned away
from McGinty and the body, his eyes met those of Kip Burland. And then
Carlson stepped quickly to the outer rim of the circle around the body.

Kip Burland knew that Carlson was lying. Carlson hadn't been near
Biggert at the time of the shooting. It was Carlson whom Burland had
seen running toward the body.

"D-d-dad," Jeff Weedham stammered, "where was Biggert when we were in
the library?"

"Oh, how should I know!" The elder Weedham ran his fingers through his
gray hair. "I don't know where he was. In his room, I suppose, going
over my personal accounts."

"Possibly," Major Paxton put in, "he was disturbed when the lights went
out in the house and came down to investigate. He probably heard the
rest of us outside the house, searching for that prowler who turned the
light through the library window."

"And possibly," McGinty said, "Biggert had discovered something pretty
important, too! There's a little scrap of yellow paper in his
fingers--just a corner, as though somebody snatched a note or something
from his hand."

"Just a corner, you say, Sergeant?" Jack Carlson asked. "When he fell in
front of me, I noticed that there was quite a sizable slip of paper in
his hand."

"There was, huh?" McGinty's eyes rested accusingly upon each face in the
circle about the body. "All right. Now just tell me who first joined you
and the murdered man, Mr. Carlson."

Carlson looked at Kip Burland. "It was that young man," he said.

"Burland, huh?" McGinty said. "I guess I'll have to search your pockets,
Burland, if you've no objection."

Kip smiled. "None whatever, Sergeant."

McGinty went through Kip's pockets. He ignored the fountain pen which
was clipped in plain sight. He stood back, shook his head.

"I guess you're clean, Burland," he admitted, and then turned to the
others. "But I'm finding whatever was in Biggert's hand, understand?
Mr. Weedham, you'll go call headquarters and tell them I want the
Homicide Detail out here."

"You mean me, d-d-don't you?" Jeff Weedham asked.

McGinty shook his head. "I mean your father. You and the rest stay here.
I'll have a little more searching to do. And a lot more questions to
ask."

Though McGinty fulfilled his promise in so far as the questions and the
searching were concerned, he didn't turn up the piece of paper he was
looking for. Neither did he find the weapon or the murderer.

It was about eleven o'clock when Jack Carlson asked permission to leave.
He had some urgent business to attend to, he explained to the sergeant.
McGinty had no grounds for holding Carlson, told him to go ahead.

But Carlson did not leave alone. Kip Burland, without asking permission
from anybody or even saying good-night to Barbara, slipped quietly from
the house. He was particularly interested in the urgent business which
was pressing Mr. Jack Carlson.



CHAPTER VII

_The Trail Of The Beam_


If Jack Carlson was as innocent as he pretended to be, it was curious
that he should stop just outside the gate of the Weedham home, reach
into a bed of dwarf evergreens from which he took a long copper cylinder
which closely resembled a flashlight.

From his hiding place in the shadows, Kip Burland saw this move on the
part of Carlson. He then saw Carlson get into his car and drive away.
Burland hailed a passing cab, ordered the driver to keep Carlson's car
in sight.

Carlson drove down into the lower east side of town, parked his car in a
narrow street, and got out. Kip ordered his cab to pass Carlson's car.
Looking back through the rear window, he saw Carlson turn up a narrow
walk between two tenement buildings.

"Stop here," Kip ordered the cab driver. And as the taxi braked, he got
out, threw a bill to the driver, and ran up the street toward the place
where Carlson had disappeared.

In the dusky shadows between the two tenements, Burland watched Carlson
put something into a wooden milk box attached just outside what was
apparently someone's kitchen door. Then Kip had to duck back into a
darkened doorway as Carlson retraced his steps, and got back into his
car.

Kip had to make a choice quickly. Either he continued to follow Carlson
or he investigated the milk box which Carlson had mysteriously visited.
In as much as there was no taxi in sight, Kip decided on the latter
course. As soon as Carlson was out of sight, he left the doorway, went
up the walk between the two buildings, opened the milk box.

Inside the box he found the copper cylinder which he had seen Carlson
take from its hiding place outside the Weedham home. The thing resembled
a flashlight more closely than ever on close inspection. It was a little
longer than the usual three cell case, and there was a finely ground
lens at the end.

Around the outside of the case was a piece of paper, held in place by a
rubber band. Kip removed the rubber band, unrolled the paper, studied it
in match light. On the paper was penciled the name "Delancy" followed by
the words, "Second floor rear at end of fire escape, sixty-eight A
Seventh Avenue." At the bottom of the paper was that crude drawing, the
sign of the Eye.

Kip's pulse quickened. Could it be that Carlson was the Eye? Certain
here was a message which Carlson had delivered and which carried the
Eye's signature. And the flashlight device--Kip understood its
construction and purpose immediately. Inside the case was some sort of a
trigger mechanism operated by a button on the outside. The trigger
operated a narrow strip of film, perhaps eight millimeter film, on which
were photographed the messages which the Eye intended to send. This film
would be placed between the light globe and the lens, so that the
photographed message could be projected on any wall from a long
distance.

This was the device which had been used tonight at the Weedham home.
Someone on the outside, probably the lady with the green eyes, Vida
Gervais, had employed the light beam projected message. That warning
which seemed to have been intended for Carlson was probably no warning
at all. Perhaps the police had been keeping rather a sharp eye on
Carlson, and Carlson had decided to put himself in the clear by faking
that little scene at the Weedham's and pretending that the Eye intended
to kill Carlson.

"And that would be suicide, I'd be willing to bet my last dollar!" Kip
muttered grimly.

He replaced the light signal device in the milk box together with the
note which was attached to the copper case. He would await further
developments. Carlson was the Eye, he was certain. It was now the job of
the Black Hood to catch Carlson red-handed.

       *       *       *       *       *

He left the narrow corridor between buildings to take up a post on the
other side of the street. He did not have to wait very long until a man
in the garb of a telegraph messenger came up the street. The messenger
looked both ways and finally turned up that sidewalk between the two
tenements. Even from where he stood, Kip Burland could hear the rattle
of the milk box top. A moment later, the messenger appeared. He was
carrying that self-same copper cased flashlight device.

It was a tangled trail that Kip Burland followed that night, shadowing
that man who wore a telegraph messenger's costume. From half a block
behind the man, Kip watched the messenger walk along side of the bleak
walls of Tombs prison. He saw the narrow ray of that signal beam reach
out and up to one of the narrow, barred windows. The Eye was signaling
to someone who was even now in the hands of the police!

The further he delved into the mystery of the whispering criminal known
as the Eye, the more intriguing it became. Who but a perverted genius
could have planned so completely, so thoroughly that not even prison
walls offered any sort of a barrier?

It was when the messenger crossed over to Seventh Avenue that Kip
Burland decided that this time he would be on the receiving end of that
message that traveled the light beam. He knew where the messenger was
heading. That paper banded to the flashlight device had carried a
Seventh Avenue address. Someone else was to receive one of the Eye's
little missives. A man by the name of Delancy, judging from the writing
on the note paper.

The name struck a responsive cord in Kip Burland's memory. It recalled
Ray Delancy, one of the most dangerous rob and kill men in the
business. Delancy would be the sort of a person valuable to the Eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a murky alley off Seventh Avenue, Kip Burland paused for a few
precious moments. Quickly, he shed his outer garments, revealing beneath
the yellow silk tights, the wide belt, and the black athletic shorts
that identified the Black Hood. From the inter-lining in the back of his
suit coat, he took a flat folded package composed of his gauntlet
gloves, his black silk cape, and that combination mask and hood that
completed the costume. Shortly, Kip Burland had vanished, completely
over-shadowed by his famous alias--the Black Hood.

The Eye's messenger had been moving at a leisurely pace. In spite of the
delay his costume change had necessitated, Black Hood easily outstripped
the messenger, reached the Seventh Avenue address which had been noted
on that slip of paper attached to the signal device. This proved to be
an ancient red brick lodging house which would have made an excellent
hideout for a criminal.

There was a fire escape on the side of the building. Black Hood raised
his eyes to the second story, marked the window which was nearest the
fire escape at this point. This was the window mentioned in the Eye's
instructions. Just across the alley from this point, Black Hood spied a
wood telephone pole. He grinned. Nothing could be sweeter! He crossed to
the pole, leaped for the lowest climbing spike, driven into the wood
about eight feet from the ground, and drew himself upwards. At the
second climbing spike, he stopped. From this position he would be able
to see the upper part of the wall of the second floor room of the
building across the alley, and also the ceiling. He pulled his black
cape around him and waited.

It wasn't long before he heard the footsteps of the messenger crunching
along the alley. The man came to a stop within a few feet of the very
post to which Black Hood was clinging. He pointed the copper cased
flashlight device upward toward the dark window which Black Hood was
watching. The white ray stabbed out through the darkness, and Black Hood
could clearly see the brand of the Eye, projected on the ceiling of the
room across the alley.

The light beam lingered for a moment, then went out. The shadowy figure
of a man appeared at the window. A cigarette glowed in his lips. A
signal, Black Hood wondered? And then the figure in the window withdrew
and the light beam again shot up from below. This time the words of the
Eye's message were clearly projected onto the ceiling of the crimester's
hideout. Black Hood read:

"Delancy, come to headquarters at once."

And then the beam of light went out.

Black Hood altered his position slightly so that he clung to the pole
with one hand, his body poised for a leap. The faint rustle of the Black
Hood's cape caused the messenger on the ground to look up.

Black Hood knew that he had to act fast. That signaling device which the
messenger carried was an important piece of evidence. Jack Carlson's
finger prints would be on the case. That, together with the photo film
which carried the Eye's message and was enclosed in the trigger
mechanism of the novel projector, constituted evidence that would prove
that Jack Carlson was the Eye.

Black Hood sprang out from the pole, swooped down upon the messenger
like a huge black bat. The man turned to flee too late. Black Hood
caught him by the coat tails, dragged him back. The messenger turned,
grappled with Black Hood. Then followed one of those grim, silent
struggles, too deadly serious for oaths and threats. Rat this pawn of
the Eye may have been, but even a cornered rat will fight with the
courage of a lion.

Time after time the man tried to bash Black Hood's skull with the copper
cased signal device--tried once too often; for Black Hood's gauntlet
covered fingers closed like steel hooks upon the device. A twist, a
sudden jerk, and it was Black Hood who had the signal device now.

The copper cylinder gone, the messenger's courage seemed to have gone
with it. He turned, fled like a frightened rabbit up the alley and into
the avenue.

Again Black Hood was faced with one of two choices. He might follow the
messenger, might catch him, turn him over to the cops. But in all
probability, the messenger knew less about the identity of the Eye than
Black Hood knew. He was merely a tool in the hands of a master criminal.
And Black Hood was after that master criminal.

The second choice, and the one which he decided to take, was to follow
Delancy who had been given orders from the Eye to appear at the
headquarters of the mob immediately. And in as much as Black Hood had
not the slightest idea where the Eye had his headquarters, this was the
wisest course to pursue.

His heart beat high with hope as he waited in the alley for Delancy to
make his appearance. He felt that he was nearing the end of the case,
approaching the time when the Eye, that menace to the peace and safety
of all New York, could be placed behind prison bars. And when he had
proved that Jack Carlson was the Eye, Black Hood would clear himself of
the charge of murder!



CHAPTER VIII

_The Forces Of Evil_


The Eye had chosen his headquarters well. It was in the basement room of
what had once been a Greenwich Village speakeasy. There he had brought
together all of the important rival mobs of the city--forces of evil
which might otherwise have been at each other's throats. The Eye had
brought unity to the underworld. He had taught them that there was
nothing to be gained by warring among themselves; and there were
millions to be gained by united action.

Delancy was there, his toadlike form crouching on the edge of his chair
placed next to that of Ron "The Bug" Brayton, formerly Delancy's rival
in the rob and kill profession. All of Delancy's star gunsels were
there--Squid Murphy, Shiv and the rest.

The Eye was there, standing on a rough wood platform at one end of the
room. His coat was off so that anyone present might plainly see the twin
gun harness he wore and the black butts of two heavy automatics. His
face and head was covered with a full mask of thin white rubber, pierced
by two slots for eyeholes. He wore a black slouch hat.

Black Hood was there, but nobody knew about that except the guard at the
top of the basement stairway. The guard knew, but bound and gagged he
was in no position to say anything about it. Black Hood stood in that
shadowy stairway and was himself like one of the shadows--watching,
listening, waiting for his time.

Ray Delancy shuffled to his feet as the meeting began.

"Mr. Eye," Delancy said, "I got a complaint to make, that is if you
don't mind. Like to get it off my chest before we go into anything in
the way of new business."

The Eye inclined his head. "Make your complaint, Mister--" He coughed.
"Well, go ahead."

"It's about this man Carlson who works for you," Delancy said. "When I
pulled that job at the Weedham plant for you, I was hot on the get-away.
I thought I was hot, anyway. We switched paint jobs at Burkey's station,
see, and rolling into town that dame you sent to ride with us switched
on the radio. A police call came through. The coppers were looking for
us. I didn't figure how come until a good bit later."

"Go on," the Eye said.

Delancy shuffled his feet and looked at the floor.

"I don't like to make trouble, see, but that was a put-up job."

"You mean what?" the Eye questioned.

"I mean that wasn't no police call. There was some sort of a phonograph
device under the cowl of that get-away car, and this was hooked up to
the radio switch. That police call was a phoney. We wasn't hot. That was
just rigged up to send us to Jack Carlson to ask that he get us out of
town in a hurry.

"I went to Carlson. I told him we was hot, because at the time I figured
we was. He wanted fifty per cent of our total take to move us out of
town. Fifty per cent, and with the ten that we are supposed to pay you,
that don't leave a guy much profit. I told Carlson I'd rot in jail
first. And all the time, I ain't hot at all, because the bulls haven't
turned the heat on me. It was a phoney, see, just to get me to spend a
lot of dough on a get-away."

The Eye nodded. "There have been some other complaints about Carlson. I
will see that he is eliminated. Someone else will take over the position
which he has filled."

In the shadows of the stairway, Black Hood laughed soundlessly. That was
a hot one, that was! Here was Carlson, playing both ends against the
middle, getting his cut as the Eye and getting a second and large
helping out of his crooked transport business. And now the Eye was
talking about eliminating Carlson to appease Ray Delancy!

"To get back to the business at hand," the Eye said, "our next job is a
small matter of one hundred thousand in unset jewels. And by a hundred
thousand, I am not referring to the current market price. We can realize
that amount from a fence. It sounds good, eh?"

Some of the mobsters cursed appreciatively.

"There is," the Eye continued, "an obscure little jewelry shop known as
Tauber's which has received such a shipment of gems."

"Diamonds or other stuff?" Ron "The Bugs" Brayton asked.

The Eye coughed. "The former," he said. "Tomorrow night I will require
the services of a select number of you. I'll want Murphy, and--" he
nodded at Delancy--"you. You, too, Brayton, and a number of your best
men. We will also need a good safe expert."

One of the crooks held up his hand. "That's me."

"Agreed, then," the Eye said. "If there is nothing else to attend to, we
may as well adjourn."

       *       *       *       *       *

As some of the crooks started toward the foot of the steps leading up
from the basement room, it appeared as though there was quite a bit more
to attend to. This was the moment for which Black Hood had been waiting.
Standing near the top of the stairs, he reached out and hauled the bound
and helpless guard down to his level. As the first of the hoods showed
his face at the foot of the stairs, Black Hood gave the guard a shove
that sent the man flopping down the stairs to bowl over two of the
foremost members of the mob.

The Black Hood took a couple of strides and then leaped from halfway
down the steps. He cleared the roped guard and the two fallen hoods,
landed lightly on the balls of his feet within a yard of Squid Murphy.

And then, before anyone in the room could quite understand what this was
all about, the Black Hood unleashed a furious one-man attack on the
startled crimesters. His two long arms reached out. His gloved fingers
closed on Squid Murphy and the killer called Shiv simultaneously. He
brought the two together, all but jerked them from their feet, to crack
Murphy's head against that of Shiv. Murphy and Shiv went limp, and as
they fell, Black Hood snatched a half-drawn automatic from the shoulder
holster of gunman Murphy. He stepped clear of the two men, faced the
others, a mocking smile on his lips.

"I am seldom required to carry a gun, since one of my opponents nearly
always gives me his," he said quietly. "It will take just one smart move
from any one among you to find out whether or not the Black Hood can
shoot."

Ten of the most dangerous criminals in the city plus that master-mind,
the Eye, stood there in awed silence, watching that tall figure in
yellow tights and black silk hood.

"I want the Eye," Black Hood said. "If you will surrender him to me, I
will give the rest of you a break--a break of five minutes in which to
take your chances with the law."

Black Hood knew that the criminals would make no such bargain. He was
talking to stall for time. He knew that sooner or later, either he or
the criminals would have to make a move. What that move would be, he had
no idea. But he was ready for anything.

It was Delancy who made the first move. He had the idea that he could
draw and shoot before Black Hood could discover from just what
particular point of the room the danger threatened. And it was Delancy's
fatal mistake. Before he had his gun out of his shoulder holster, Black
Hood had fired. He had fired, remembering that cold-blooded slaughter at
the Weedham Industries plant. A third black and hollow eye appeared
suddenly in Delancy's forehead. The legs of the gunman bowed beneath the
weight of his toadlike body. There was a dull, bewildered expression on
Delancy's face as he hit the floor.

But that first shot was the spark that touched off the powder barrel.
Two more followed--one that tugged at the Black Hood's cape, a second
that shot out the light in the room. Black Hood backed toward the bottom
of the stair. He'd plant himself there in that narrow exit, and if the
crimesters thought there was an avenue of escape, let them try. The
automatic in his hand bucked and barked. His only target was the flame
from the snouts of the gangster guns, but agonized cries told him that
at least a portion of his slugs had found their mark.

Suddenly he saw at the rear of the room, a narrow shaft of gray light.
Somebody had opened a door. For just a moment, he saw the white face of
the Eye, his rubber mask glowing like the surface of a moon. Black Hood
shot twice, pulled the trigger a third time only to hear the hammer
click on an empty chamber.

Perhaps the Eye heard that click and understood its meaning, for it was
then that he made his dash through the rear door. Black Hood knew that
retreat was now his only course. He was without weapons in a battle of
screaming lead. He turned, stumbled over a fallen form, caught his
balance, and then took the stairway in long strides. A cop, attracted by
the shooting, appeared at the top of the steps, but he was only a
momentary barrier to the Black Hood--a very hard man to stop once he got
under way. His fist lashed out, caught the copper on the chin. The man
probably never knew exactly when the floor came up to slap the back of
his lap.

Black Hood was clear of the building now, his legs working like tireless
pistons. He heard the shrill scream of police sirens, and in the
basement of the building the roar of gun fire still sounded. Perhaps the
criminals did not know that their opponent had left. One thing was
certain: Black Hood had dealt the forces of evil a hard blow that night,
and he had showed the Eye that the Black Hood was hard on his trail.

Rounding a corner, Black Hood sighted a taxi cab cruising along. He
dashed into the street, waving his arm. The cab stopped, the driver
goggling at the strange figure that had hailed him.

"I'm in a big hurry to get to a masquerade," Black Hood said as he
opened the door of the taxi.

"So that's what it is," the driver said, apparently satisfied.

As Black Hood got into the cab, he gave the address of Jack Carlson's
auto livery. So the Eye thought he had escaped, did he? Black Hood
chuckled. Well, he'd planned a little surprise for Jack Carlson, alias,
the Eye!



CHAPTER IX

_Alias, The Corpse_


It was after two o'clock in the morning when Black Hood alighted from
the cab near the location of Jack Carlson's auto livery garage. There
was not a sign of light in the garage building, and the big doors were
closed and locked. Black Hood went to the side entrance. This also was
locked. Reaching into one of the secret pockets of his wide black belt
he removed a curiously shaped tool of finest tempered steel. He had met
few locks in his adventures which this tool could not open. A deft
thrust, a twist of the wrist, and the door was no longer a barrier to
him.

He returned the tool to its pocket and pulled out a tiny flashlight. The
ray of light seemed swallowed by the gloom of the vast, lonely room that
lay before him. Here and there were parked cars, oil drums, huge vans.
Black Hood wondered how many of these vehicles had been used by the
members of the Eye's criminal pack.

He crossed the room to the concrete ramp that twisted up to the second
story. His footsteps whispered on the ramp. On the second floor there
was neither light nor sound--not so much as the squeak of a rat. His
flashlight pointed out the office, partitioned off from the rest of the
big room. He crossed quickly, pushed open the office door, spotted the
light switch. He turned the light switch to the on position, but no
illumination came from either the central fixtures nor the lamps on the
desk. A queer set-up, this.

He went into Jack Carlsons private office, tried the switch in there,
still without results. He pointed his flashlight beam around until it
fell on the huge iron safe in the corner. The safe door was standing
wide open, the interior cleanly empty. Queerer and queerer.

He paused in the center of the room, his nostrils dilated. There was a
faint, pleasant odor lingering in the room--a vaguely familiar odor.

Black Hood crossed to the door of a coat closet, jerked it open. A body
fell stiffly into the room, struck the carpet with a dull, jarring
sound. Black Hood sprang back, turned his light down at the corpse. He
dropped to his knees beside the dead man, grasped the shoulder of the
coat of the corpse, turned the man over on his back. And as he saw that
gray deathmask of a face, Black Hood knew that all his carefully worked
out solution had tumbled like a house of cards. The corpse on the floor
was that of Jack Carlson, and he had been dead for hours.

Carlson could not have been the Eye, for less than an hour ago, Black
Hood had seen and fought with the Eye!

       *       *       *       *       *

Bullets had pierced the chest of Carlson in three places. High on the
left lapel of his dark suit coat was a white smudge made by some sort of
powder. Black Hood stepped to Carlson's desk, picked up an envelope and
a letter opener, and returned to the body. With great care, he scraped
some of the white powder from the coat lapel into the envelope. Then he
moistened the flap and sealed it.

Turning the flashlight away from the body, he suddenly noticed something
else. That white smudge on Carlson's coat glowed in the darkness.

The Black Hood's keen eyes narrowed on that patch of pale light. Then,
as though seized by a sudden inspiration, he sprang to Carlson's desk
and tipped up the desk lamp. He reached in under the shade and laid his
bare hand on the lamp bulb. The glass of that bulb was warm. Then he
crossed to the door, flipped the light switch to the off position, and
looked back in the direction of the corpse.

The pale glow of light which came from that powder smudge on Carlson's
lapel was no longer visible!

An understanding gleam came into Black Hood's eyes. At least he
understood how Jack Carlson had died, even if the mystery of the
identity of the Eye had deepened. He withdrew quietly from the room and
left the garage.

At the fringe of dawn the next morning, Black Hood was high in the
Catskills, in the mountain fastness of that whiskered old man who had
been his teacher--that man known simply as the Hermit. There in the
Hermit's laboratory, Black Hood and the old man made a careful analysis
of that scanty sample of powder which Black Hood had scraped from the
coat of the murdered Jack Carlson.

Finally, the old man straightened from the microscope over which he had
been bending.

"My son," he asked of the Black Hood, "what are your findings?"

"The stuff is face powder," Black Hood said. "But it's something else,
too. Mixed in with the face powder is another substance."

"Naphthionate of sodium," the Hermit said.

"That's what I thought," Black Hood nodded. "It's one of those
substances which becomes phosphorescent in ultra-violet light. And those
light bulbs in Jack Carlson's garage were ultra-violet bulbs. The light
from them is invisible to us poor mortals. You see what that means,
Hermit?"

"Not entirely," the Hermit said.

"It means that Jack Carlson was marked for murder. That face powder came
from the cheek of a woman--some woman who pressed her cheek against
Carlson's lapel. And a pretty gesture of affection it was, too. It made
Carlson so easy to kill!

"You see, the naphthionate of sodium in that powder sticks to just about
anything. Even if Carlson had brushed the face powder off, the
naphthionate would still have been there. When Carlson entered the
garage, he turned on the light switch. No visible light came from those
bulbs--only "black light" as it is called. And the killer was waiting.
In the black light, the killer could not be seen, but Carlson was
perfectly targeted by that smudge of naphthionate which glowed on his
lapel.

"It was all planned in advance--the lady's part to smear the powder on
Carlsons' lapel, a sort of Judas kiss. And then there was the killer's
part--to replace the ordinary bulbs with the ultra-violet type, and to
wait with drawn gun to shoot Carlson."

"Who, then, is the Eye?" the Hermit asked.

"I'll stick to my original idea," Black Hood said after a moment's
thought. "I still think that Jack Carlson is--was--the Eye. That alibi
he arranged for himself at Weedham's home, that warning from the Eye
which stated that Carlson was to die, his efforts to make Biggert's
death look as though the killer had been shooting at Carlson instead of
at Biggert--that all points to Carlson as the Eye. He was trying to make
himself appear the fair-haired boy in front of Sergeant McGinty.

"Further, and I think conclusive proof, is that signal device which was
used to 'warn' Carlson. That was--Carlson's own device. It was Vida
Gervais, I believe, who turned the signal light through the French
windows at the Weedham house. And then later, in a previously appointed
spot, she left the signal light for Carlson to pick up as he left the
house.

"Carlson changed the film in that light, putting in one which would
deliver two more of the Eye's messages--one of which went to Delancy,
telling him to come to a meeting tonight."

Black Hood propped one foot on a laboratory stool, rested an elbow on
his knee. His eyes were bright, his face animated.

"Don't you see that up to that point, Carlson was the Eye. But shortly
after he had planted the signal device for his messenger to pick up,
Carlson was murdered. The man who directed the criminal meeting later on
wasn't Carlson, because Carlson was dead. It means that somebody took
over where Carlson left off. It means that somebody muscled in on
Carlson's little racket, killed Carlson, began playing the part of the
Eye."

"Which means," the Hermit said, "that you're not at the end of your task
yet."

"Not by a long shot," Black Hood replied. "And I'm wondering about this
Vida Gervais. Is she the woman whose face powder was smeared on Jack
Carlson's lapel? I thought the odor of the powder was familiar. And
here's another thing I didn't mention."

Black Hood searched the pockets of his wide belt, brought out his
fountain pen.

"Here's a little item which I snitched from the hand of the murdered
Biggert, who was William Weedham's personal secretary. It's a check, and
I've scarcely had time to look at it myself."

He unscrewed the cap of the fountain pen and removed the piece of rolled
up yellow paper which he had taken from the dead Biggert's hand. He
flattened out the slip of paper and placed it on the table in front of
the Hermit.

It was a check in the sum of forty thousand dollars, made out to the
order of Major Paxton and signed by William Weedham, the major's
brother-in-law. The check had been endorsed and paid through a New York
bank.

"I think this is the reason that Biggert was killed," Black Hood said.
"Weedham said that Biggert was going over his personal bank account, and
it's entirely possible that Biggert discovered there was something queer
about that check."

"A forgery, perhaps," the Hermit suggested.

"That was my idea," Black Hood agreed. "Anyway, that gives us a couple
of leads--Vida Gervais and Major Paxton. And if both of them are knocked
off before I can get the truth out of them--" Black Hood laughed without
mirth.



CHAPTER X

_"Stop, Murderer!"_


The following morning, Kip Burland read the early edition of Jeff
Weedham's paper, _The Daily Opinion_, with his breakfast coffee. The
latest story concerning the criminal exploits of the Eye was headlined:

    "EYE IS BLACK HOOD"--BURKEY

The following story told how A. J. Burkey, filling station operator from
a northern suburb, had been held in Tombs prison for questioning in
conjunction with the murder and robbery at the Weedham plant. The night
before, Burkey had confessed that his boss, the criminal known as the
Eye, was actually the Black Hood.

The part of the story that put a dull ache in Kip Burland's heart was
the fact that it was by-lined by Barbara Sutton, _The Daily Opinion_
police reporter--and more particularly the woman whom Kip Burland loved.

There was another "Eye" story, stating that the body of Jack Carlson had
been found. This murder, too, was attributed to the Eye. And once again
it was pointed out that the Eye and the Black Hood were one and the
same.

As night fell upon the city, Kip Burland once more vanished behind the
identity of the Black Hood, not without full realization that he was
taking his life into his hands. Again he visited the Weedham estate on
West End Avenue, this time determined to have a talk with Major Paxton.

Prowling around the house in search for a suitable entrance, Black Hood
discovered that he could not have come at a worse time. William Weedham
was host to Sergeant McGinty and his cops as well as a number of
reporters, including Barbara Sutton and her clumsy cameraman, Joe
Strong. Evidently the police expected to gain further information about
the crimes of the Eye.

Black Hood took to a stout iron trellis, climbed quickly to the second
story where he found a bedroom window open. He slipped into the empty
bedroom and from there went into the hall. Tiptoeing down the hall, he
came to a small upstairs living room in which a light burned. There,
studying a European war map was Major Paxton.

Black Hood entered silently and closed the door behind him. As the
major looked up, Black Hood stepped quickly forward so that his tall
figure over-shadowed that of the peppery little major.

"What--what--who--" Paxton sputtered. "Why, look here, you can't come in
here like this!"

"But I am in," Black Hood said quietly. "And you won't utter a sound, or
you'll force me to live up to my unjustly earned reputation as a
murderer."

"But it's illegal! It--it's damnable!"

"Now sit down and cool off, Major," Black Hood said patiently. "You can
blow off steam after I've left."

"Left, huh? You'll get out of here over my dead body!"

Black Hood nodded. "If necessary, even that. But first we're going to
have a quiet little chat, you and I. A little talk about a check in the
amount of forty thousand dollars."

"I'll not pay you one cent!" Paxton exploded. "Why, do you think you can
frighten me into--"

"I have frightened you, Major," Black Hood said, smiling. "And it won't
cost you a cent, either. All I want you to do is take a look at this
check."

Black Hood drew the check, which he had taken from the dead fingers of
the murdered Biggert, from a pocket in his belt. He held it so that
Paxton could look at it. Paxton stared, and then suddenly looked at the
Black Hood's eyes revealed in the slots of his black mask.

"Why, it's made out to me!"

"Remarkable, isn't it?" Black Hood said. "It was found in the fingers of
the murdered Biggert." He turned the check over to show the endorsement.
"Is that your signature?"

"It most certainly is! But, great heavens, I didn't receive any money
from William Weedham. I'll have you know that I am a man of independent
means. He's never given me a penny. Why, what does this mean?"

Black Hood studied the little man closely. He had seen liars before, and
it seemed to him that if Paxton was lying he was doing a remarkable job
of it.

"That's your signature, though," he persisted.

"Yes, but I didn't sign it." The major pressed a hand to his forehead.
"Wait. I've an idea. A mere ghost of an idea!" He reached into his
pocket and pulled out a cigarette lighter. "My signature is engraved on
this lighter," he explained. "Anyone could have borrowed my lighter and
traced that endorsement. Let me see the check a moment."

       *       *       *       *       *

Black Hood shook his head. "And have you destroy it?" he said with a
smile. "Rather, let me see the lighter."

The major handed over the cigarette lighter. Holding it beneath the
check, Black Hood could see that the signature of Paxton on the back of
the check followed in every detail the engraved signature on the
lighter. He handed the lighter back.

"And the signature of William Weedham," he said. "Take a look at that?"

Major Paxton scowled. He shook his head doubtfully. "It could be
genuine. And then again, it could be a forgery. It seems to me--"

The door behind Black Hood opened. The master manhunter wheeled, saw the
lank figure of Jeff Weedham standing in the door. Jeff Weedham opened
his mouth, shouted at the top of his voice.

"D-d-dad! Help! The Black Hood!" And then young Weedham tried a necktie
tackle that was supposed to flatten Black Hood to the floor.

Black Hood bent double to duck that high tackle. The result was that
Jeff Weedham landed squarely across Black Hood's broad back. The
manhunter straightened, threw Jeff to the floor, darted from the room
and out into the hall.

The stairway was within three long strides of him. Black Hood slid half
way down the broad stair railing before he saw William Weedham and
Sergeant McGinty at the foot of the steps waiting for him. McGinty had
his gun out. Black Hood kicked his legs over the rail, reversing his
position, gave himself a shove with his hands. He dropped over the
railing, landed on his feet in the hall below. He turned, dashed through
a door that stood open beneath the stairs. This brought him into a huge
dining room.

But he wasn't there long enough to tell about it. He went through a
swinging door into a butler's pantry, then into a kitchen. There was a
cop at the back door, waiting for him. He pivoted in his tracks, doubled
back into the dining room, went through another door that brought him to
the living room. No way out there. And then he remembered that William
Weedham's library was between living room and hall. The French windows
of the library might be the one avenue of escape which McGinty's thinly
spread men were not guarding.

He reached the library, ran to the French windows. They were locked, but
the key was in place. He was about to unlock the windows when he heard
the door off the hall open and close.

"Stop, murderer!"

Black Hood turned, just a little slowly this time, because he had
recognized that voice--a voice that haunted his dreams as did the face
of the lovely girl who owned it. Barbara Sutton stood in the doorway, a
small but businesslike revolver in her hand.



CHAPTER XI

_The Frame Complete_


"Barbara," Black Hood said quietly, "you're joking!"

She shook her head. Her lower lip trembled.

Black Hood took two steps toward her and saw her gun wrist stiffen.

"Listen," he said grimly, "I could take that penny pea shooter away from
you in a second. I want you to know that I'm staying here in this room
when every second of delay may spell my death. I'm staying here because
if it's the last thing I do, I'm going to convince you that I'm not a
killer. And I'm not the Eye."

"That picture Joe took," she said. "And that confession of the man in
Tombs. And you've told me time and time again that you're an outlaw."

He nodded. "If my real identity were known, the police could take me on
the charge of robbery. But that charge would be a frame, just as this
one is. I can never clear myself of the robbery charge. But I can and
_will_ clear the Black Hood of the charge of murder. Joe must have got
that picture by accident. I was simply bending over that watchman at the
Weedham plant gate to see if there was any chance that he was alive and
had witnessed the crime. When I saw the knife, I planned to withdraw it
from the watchman's throat, to use it as possible evidence.

"You've got to believe me, Barbara. I'm fighting this creature who calls
himself the Eye just as you are and just as the police are. You and I
have been through a lot of adventures together. Ask yourself if I have
ever done a single thing which would indicate that I would stoop to the
slaughter of the innocent. Ask yourself that, Barbara."

He took another step toward her. Her violet eyes glistened with tears.

"Joe Strong has tried to poison your mind against me," he said. "I can't
blame him for that, since all's fair in love and war. But you've got to
believe me, Barbara. You've got to believe me because--because I love
you. I've always loved you from the first day I set eyes on you. And--"

The gun spilled from Barbara's limp fingers, and suddenly she was in his
arms. He held her fiercely, tenderly for a long moment, kissed her warm
lips. And then there were sounds of footsteps in the hall. He heard Jeff
Weedham say:

"D-d-did anybody look in the library?"

Black Hood released Barbara, turned, dashed back to the French windows.
He looked back before he plunged out into the darkness, and his teeth
gleamed in a smile. Barbara was smiling, too--smiling and crying at the
same time.

There was a police guard at the gate of the Weedham estate, but then
Black Hood had never cared a whole lot about using gates anyway. He
raced across the lawn, vaulted over the wall which separated the Weedham
property from the place belonging to the green-eyed Vida Gervais next
door.

To all appearances, the green-eyed lady was not at home--not unless
those catlike eyes of hers were capable of seeing in the dark. Black
Hood found his way into the house through a window. Inside, the house
was as silent as it was dark.

Eventually, he found his way to Vida Gervais' boudoir and there poked
and sniffed among the boxes and jars of cosmetics on her dressing table.
A box of face powder attracted his particular attention, and when he
looked into the adjoining bathroom he discovered a suitable means of
testing the powder to make sure that it was the same which he had
scraped from the coat lapel of the dead Jack Carlson. Evidently, the
lady was somewhat concerned about her pale complexion, for there was a
sun lamp in the bathroom. Beneath its ultra-violet rays Black Hood
discovered that the face powder took on a phosphorescent glow, proving
that sodium naphthionate had been added to it. He took the powder with
him when he left the house a few minutes later dressed in a spare
uniform of Vida Gervais' chauffeur.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an hour later that Black Hood came to an obscure little jewelry
shop known simply as "Tauber's." It was here that the Eye's crimesters
were supposed to pull their next job, according to the plans which had
been set forth at the meeting on the night before. Whether or not Black
Hood's unexpected appearance at that meeting had put a crimp in those
plans, he did not know. But there was no way of learning except by trial
and error. Except for a night light which glinted through the show
window, the place was dark.

Black Hood reflected that had he any desire to live up to his false
reputation as a criminal, he could have done very nicely for himself. It
required just twenty minutes of work for him to open the window at the
back of the shop--steel grill work, burglar alarm, lock and all. It was
rather a tight squeeze for his broad shoulders, getting through the
opening, but he managed it. No sooner had his feet hit the floor,
however, than he felt the cold, stern prod of the barrel of an
automatic.

"All right, Mr. Hood, put up your hands!"

Black Hood jerked a glance over his right shoulder to behold the
unlovely visage of Mr. Ron "The Bugs" Brayton.

"Hi there, Bugs," he said lightly, raising his hands to the level of his
shoulders. "Fancy meeting you here."

Brayton laughed. "If you'da knocked at the front door, we'd have let you
in, Mr. Hood. It's pretty early, for a heist, ain't it? But we figured
the early bird would get the diamonds. And then you was wised up to this
job, wasn't you?"

"Oh, I did hear it mentioned at the lodge meeting last night," Black
Hood said. He laughed. "Isn't that Squid Murphy over there in the
corner, trying to disguise himself as a corner of that safe?"

Murphy stepped out of the shadows. He had a gun in his fist. A third
hood put in his appearance from the front of the store and a fourth came
out of Tauber's private office.

"You're just a little bit too late, Mr. Hood," Bugs Brayton said. "That
is, too late to get your hands on these beauties."

Brayton extended his right arm in front of him. He was holding a small
leather satchel, the mouth of the bag wide open. What light there was in
the place scintillated on a layer of unset diamonds in the bottom of the
bag. It was then that Black Hood got one of those sudden inspirations
which had made him the underworld's most capable adversary. His right
hand dropped with incredible swiftness to his wide black belt, snatched
something from a concealed pocket there. That same hand shot out toward
the bag of diamonds, lingered over its open mouth a moment before it
clenched into a fist and hammered to the point of Squid Murphy's jaw.

Murphy went back very fast and didn't stop until he had rammed into the
Tauber safe. But the three other hoods closed in upon Black Hood. Bugs
Brayton's big automatic rose and fell like an ax. The barrel of it
caught Black Hood on the temple with stunning force. Black Hood fell to
the floor and an unidentified but effective shoe toe caught the side of
his head with a powerful kick. Blazing blobs of light exploded within
his brain, and then the total blackness of unconsciousness funneled down
upon his brain.

Bugs Brayton stood over the fallen manhunter. He weighed his automatic
thoughtfully in his hand. He looked at Squid Murphy and the others.

"Well, boys," he said, "I guess it's up to me to finish off Mr. Hood.
And I can't say that I got any regrets about him dying so young." He
laughed, stooped over Black Hood, pressed the muzzle of his gun to the
manhunter's forehead.

"Stop, Bugs!" came a whispered command from the front of the store.

Brayton straightened. Coming toward the group of crimesters around the
unconscious Black Hood, was the man they knew as the Eye, his white
rubber mask resembling a death's head in the half light.

"It would be a grave mistake to kill Black Hood, Brayton," the Eye said.
"Once he is dead, the police will turn their attention to
others--perhaps to any one of us. You understand?"

"But the guy's dangerous," Squid Murphy protested. "I'll take my chances
with the bulls any day, rather than with Black Hood."

"He won't be dangerous to us in prison," the criminal chief argued.
"Hand me the gems, Brayton."

Brayton obeyed. He watched the Eye's slim white fingers reach down into
the layer of diamonds, watched them sift the glittering gems. Then he
took a dozen or so of the stones from the bag, transferred them to a
pocket in Black Hood's belt.

"Now," he said, "the frame is complete. I will take care of the gems and
as soon as I have sold them, I will split with you. Let's get out of
here."

So great was their fear of their leader that the crimesters obeyed
without protest. Just outside the rear door of the jewelry shop, the
criminal chief stopped, raised a whistle to his lips, and blew a
skirling blast.

"What's the idea?" Brayton demanded, startled.

"To bring the police for the Black Hood, you fool!"



CHAPTER XII

_Black Light_


Black Hood staggered to his feet, his brain still whirling from that
blow to his head. He lurched toward the front door of the shop, stopped
half way there, clung to a counter for support. Somebody was pounding on
the front door. A hoarse voice was calling on him to open in the name of
the law.

Black Hood turned, spurred the muscles of his legs to carry on. The
brilliant light of a policeman's torch sliced through the semi-darkness
and spotted him. He kept going. Glass in the front door shattered
beneath a blow from the butt of the copper's revolver. Black Hood ran on
leaden feet into the rear of the shop. The back door stood invitingly
open. He stepped over the sill, all but fell into the arms of a second
cop. He struck just one wild haymaker of a blow that cleared the head of
the cop by nearly a foot. And then suddenly there were two cops--one on
either side of him.

"It's Black Hood!" one of the coppers shouted triumphantly. "We've got
him. We've got the Eye. Wait till Sergeant McGinty hears about this!"

Cold steel jaws of handcuffs closed on Black Hood's right wrist. A
second cop frisked him quickly, emptying the pockets of his belt.

"Look at the sparklers, will you!" the policeman gasped.

And Black Hood, his mind still in a daze, stared down at the gems in
the copper's hand. No use telling them it was a frame. That was the
standard alibi of every crook who ever found his way into police courts.
They had him cold, and in his present condition he was utterly unable to
fight back.

As long as he lived he was never to forget that ride down to police
headquarters. Nor could he ever forget standing there in Sergeant
McGinty's office while the sergeant did a bit of triumphant gloating.

"As sure as my name's McGinty, I knew there'd come a day like this, Mr.
Black Hood, alias the Eye. I've got you, and I've got you where I want
you. You'll burn in the chair, Mr. Hood."

Black Hood stood erect, still handcuffed to the cop who had captured
him. He could think a little bit more clearly now and the muscles of his
powerful body were much more inclined to obey the dictates of his taut
nerves. He looked at the top of the sergeant's desk. There the entire
contents of his belt pockets had been spread out--the dozen diamonds
which had been used to frame him; that crumpled check which he had taken
from the dead fingers of Biggert; the powder box from Vida Gervais'
boudoir, most of its contents now gone; all his little tools and weapons
which he had found valuable in his valiant fight against crime.

"You know what I've done, Mr. Hood?" McGinty asked. "I've telephoned the
members of the citizens' committee who got together to tell the police
what to do to catch the Eye. I've asked them and their friends to come
down here to headquarters for the unveiling of Black Hood, alias the
Eye. When they get here, I'm going to jerk off that mask of yours and
we'll all have a little surprise party."

"You might spare me that 'alias, the Eye' business," Black Hood said,
some of his old-time banter returning. "The Eye died when Jack Carlson
died, and I can prove that. Since Carlson was murdered, another has
taken his place. The man who killed Biggert and also killed Jack
Carlson, now wears the white rubber mask that identifies the Eye, goes
around whispering orders to professional rob and kill men. He's robbed
Carlson's safe and robbed Carlson of his life and even robbed Carlson of
his identity as the Eye. And given half a chance, I'll prove that to
you, McGinty."

McGinty frowned. He could not deny that many times before Black Hood
had beaten him to the solution of crimes, much to his embarrassment.
And in each case, McGinty had received full credit for the solving of
these crimes.

"When the time comes, Mr. Hood," McGinty said, "you'll have your chance
to speak your little piece. I wouldn't deny that to any man."

"Then perhaps you'll unlock these handcuffs," Black Hood suggested.
"You've robbed my bag of all its tricks and I'm relatively harmless at
the present time. Besides," he added, glancing at the cop to whom he was
linked, "this man here becomes something of a liability after this
length of time."

"Unlock the cuffs, Bricker," McGinty ordered the cop. "Black Hood can't
get out of here, and that's a sure thing."

       *       *       *       *       *

The cuff removed from his right wrist, Black Hood went to a chair beside
the desk and calmly sat down.

"I want to appeal to your reason a moment, Sergeant, before this
committee arrives for the 'unveiling' as you call it. First of all, is
it reasonable to suppose that I would crack open a jewelry store just to
get those few diamonds there on the desk? And having broken into the
store with intent to rob, as you seem to think, would I be silly enough
to fall on my head and knock myself out?"

"Could be those were the only diamonds you found in the store."

"There were one hundred thousand dollars worth of unset diamonds in that
store tonight," Black Hood said. "And that's what this man who is posing
as the Eye went after and got. The past record shows that none of these
crimes have been what you could call petty."

"A fact," McGinty said, "which doesn't prove you haven't hid the
diamonds somewhere."

"But kept a few of them on my person just to get myself in jail, huh?"
Black Hood laughed. "Listen, McGinty, why do you suppose Biggert,
Weedham's secretary, was killed?"

"The shot that killed Biggert was intended for Jack Carlson," McGinty
said. "So it was an accident that Biggert was shot."

Black Hood shook his head, "Jack Carlson was nowhere near Biggert when
the latter fell. That was no mistake. Biggert was killed because he was
about to expose somebody who had forged that check which is lying on
your desk. That check is the piece of paper that was in Biggert's hand
when he died."

McGinty's eyes narrowed. "How did you get hold of that, Mr. Hood?"

Black Hood saw that he would have to lie in order to protect his
prototype, Kip Burland.

"I reached the body of Biggert before Carlson or anyone else did. That's
how I know Carlson wasn't near the man when the shot was fired."

McGinty thought that over a moment.

"Go ahead, Mr. Hood. I'm not convinced, but every man has a right to
free speech."

"Did the police notice the smudge of white powder on the lapel of
Carlson's coat when they found his body? Did they notice that the
regular light bulbs in his garage had been replaced with ultra-violet
bulbs?"

McGinty nodded. "Our lab men don't miss much. That smudge of powder
contained some chemical that glows in black light. I figured it spotted
Carlson for the killer, made a target out of him in the dark."

"Right, McGinty. But do you know that Carlson was betrayed by a woman
named Vida Gervais? She lives in the house next to the Weedham place.
That powder box which you took from my pocket and which is now on your
desk, is a sample of her face powder, treated with naphthionate of
sodium. You can prove that yourself. And if you'll question the lady
thoroughly, you'll be able to get at the truth. She'll know that Carlson
was the Eye. And she may even admit that she threw Carlson over and
helped somebody else dispose of Carlson and step into the lucrative
position which Carlson occupied as the Eye."

McGinty looked up at one of his men. "Send out for that Gervais dame."
When the man had left the room, he turned to Black Hood. "You haven't
cleared yourself yet. You claim Carlson was the Eye. That's the world's
oldest alibi--putting the blame on a dead man."

"I can prove Carlson was the Eye," Black Hood persisted. "In the morning
I will send you that signal device which the Eye used. It carries
Carlson's fingerprints."

"You'll send it from jail, then," McGinty said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Black Hood shook his head. "I wonder if you'd send to the police lab for
an ultra-violet lamp? I think I can conduct an experiment which will
prove my points."

McGinty considered this a moment, and finally sent out for an
ultra-violet lamp. It was not long after that before the members of the
citizens committee began to arrive. The two Weedhams, father and son,
were ushered into the room, followed by Major Paxton, Harold Adler, and
the rest of the committee. Jeff Weedham's newspaper was represented by
Barbara Sutton and her ace cameraman, Joe Strong. And finally the police
brought in a coldly furious Vida Gervais.

Black Hood carefully avoided meeting Barbara Sutton's eyes. He knew that
her emotions must be strained to the breaking point, and even a glance
from him might have caused her to betray herself.

"D-d-don't tell me you've finally caught Black Hood, Sergeant!" Jeff
Weedham gasped.

The sergeant smiled. "Sooner or later, McGinty gets 'em all."

McGinty waited until all present were seated. Then he stood up alongside
of Black Hood.

"Now, folks," he said, "as you can see, I've got Black Hood just where I
want him. And I've wanted him quite a while. I promised you that I'd
show you his face, and that's just what I'm going to do."

       *       *       *       *       *

Harold Adler uttered a hoarse cry of warning that came just a bit too
late. With one of those lightning-like movements of his, Black Hood had
pulled the revolver out of McGinty's holster, turned it on the sergeant.
A copper near the door started to intervene, but Black Hood stopped him
with a narrow-eyed glance that held all the threat of a thunderbolt.

"Make a move toward me, and I put a bullet into McGinty's back," he
said. "No one will ever see the face of Black Hood and live to talk
about it. I've just given McGinty the entire solution to this mystery.
I've told him that Jack Carlson was the Eye. I've explained how Jack
Carlson was murdered and his powerful position in the underworld was
usurped by another man who now poses as the Eye. If there is any doubt
in his mind, I am about to dispel it."

Black Hood picked up the ultra-violet lamp with his left hand while his
right kept the gun on McGinty. He said, "Mr. Adler, will you kindly
turn out the lights."

Adler hesitated.

"Do as you're told," Black Hood insisted, "if you don't want to witness
murder. And I want to warn everyone in this room, that when the lights
go out if anyone makes any move toward me, McGinty will die. Even if I
were to be shot, the reflex action of my fingers would pull the trigger
of this revolver and McGinty will die. I am no murderer, but if you
interfere with me in this business, you'll make a murderer of me."

Adler switched out the lights. The darkness lay like a smothering
blanket upon them all. The air itself had a certain electrical tenseness
about it, like the silence before a storm.

"I am now going to switch on the ultra-violet light. If the filter is
perfect, you will not be able to see the light, because ultra-violet
rays, when unadulterated by other rays, cannot be seen by the human eye.
There. The light is on.

"I have offered evidence to Sergeant McGinty in which I intended to
prove that Biggert, William Weedham's secretary, was killed because he
was about to show to William Weedham a check to which William Weedham's
signature had been forged. Not only that, but the forger, in cashing the
check, also forged the endorsement of Major Paxton, to whom the check
was made out.

"I have further pointed out to McGinty, that this same killer disposed
of Jack Carlson, after Carlson had been betrayed by a woman. This woman
must have been Carlson's friend. She must have known all his secrets,
including the fact that Carlson was the Eye. She gave all this
information to another man--the same man who forged the check which I
mentioned before. Then she assisted this killer to shoot Carlson. This
woman's face powder was treated with naphthionate of sodium. A little of
this powder rubbed from her cheek to Carlson's lapel made Carlson a
perfect target in pitch darkness, provided that darkness was penetrated
by rays of invisible ultra-violet or black light. I have a sample of
that woman's face powder here on McGinty's desk."

Black Hood turned the ultra-violet lamp on the desk. The box of powder
there became phosphorescent.

"When I was framed for the Tauber jewel robbery tonight, I seized the
opportunity to toss some of this face powder onto the jewels in the
robbers' bag," Black Hood continued. "The face powder is that of Vida
Gervais. Watch, please."

Black Hood turned the ultra-violet lamp out toward his audience. Vida
Gervais' frightened face glowed in the black light. Startled gasps could
be heard from the others in the room as they stared at that ghostly
face.

"Vida Gervais," Black Hood continued, "knew a good thing when she saw
it. To eventually better her social and financial position, she was
willing to sell out Carlson, alias the Eye, to another man who, if he
could accumulate, through fair means or foul, quite a tidy sum of money
now would get his hands on a great deal more money in the future.

"So Vida Gervais betrayed Carlson, alias the Eye, into the hands of the
man who had killed Biggert. The forty thousand dollars which this man
had got from the forged check was a small part of the money he needed.
But if he could step into the Eye's shoes for a little while, he could
rapidly accumulate the rest.

"I mentioned a moment ago that I had tossed some of Vida Gervais'
unusual face powder onto the diamonds stolen from Tauber's shop. The
naphthionate in that powder would cling to the diamonds and subsequently
cling to the hands of the criminal who eventually got hold of them.
Watch now for the glowing hands of the killer--the man who has been
impersonating the Eye ever since Carlson was killed. But one funny thing
about that impersonation which I did not realize until tonight. The
impersonator, this man who killed Biggert and Carlson, was most careful
to avoid any word or name beginning with the letter 'D.' He would not,
for instance, say the name 'Delancy,' nor would he speak the word
'diamonds.' Why? Because every time he says a word or name beginning
with that letter, he stutters. He might disguise his voice by
whispering, but he could not control this stutter, which would have been
a dead give-away."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the black light, luminous fingers suddenly showed themselves. There
was a piercing scream. Men surged forward to close in and blot out the
glow from the killer's fingers.

"Watch out!" Black Hood's warning voice rang out. "He is probably
armed!"

Men bumped into each other. There was the repeated thud of blows. There
were cries, grunts, stammered oaths. And when finally somebody turned on
the lights, Jeff Weedham was on the floor, two cops astride him. He had
a gun in his hand, but his hand was pinned to the floor.

Sergeant McGinty looked over his shoulder at the Black Hood--or rather
looked where he thought the Black Hood would be. McGinty's jaw sagged.
He looked down at his own gun which was poking him in the ribs. His
revolver had been wedged into the baby-gate extension arm of his own
desk telephone. And Black Hood was gone.

It was an hour later that McGinty and his men, by playing Vida Gervais
and Jeff Weedham, one against the other, got a full confession which
corresponded very closely to Black Hood's reconstruction of the crimes.
Jeff Weedham had been placed in rather a desperate position by his
father, Jeff explained. William Weedham had bought Jeff the newspaper,
insisting that he make a financial success of it and thus prove his
worth. If he failed in this as he had in everything else, William
Weedham was determined that none of the Weedham fortune should fall into
Jeff's hands.

Jeff had run his newspaper into the red. As the time came closer in
which William Weedham was to examine the newspaper's ledger, Jeff
Weedham tried desperately to make up the lost money, first by forgery,
and then by stepping into Carlson's shoes as the Eye.

Ballistics tests proved that it was Jeff's gun which had killed both
Biggert and Carlson.

Just as McGinty was about to leave his office for the night, his phone
rang. Almost before he picked the instrument up, he knew who his caller
was.

"I say, McGinty," the voice of the Black Hood came from the receiver, "I
really intended to apologize for making a fool of you there in your
office, sticking you up with a gun attached to that telephone arm. But
then, as I thought the matter over, it occurred to me that I really
wasn't to blame for making a fool of you. You've really got a bone to
pick with dear old Mother Nature on that score!"

"Say, will you kindly go to Hell!" McGinty exploded. And as he hung up,
a chuckle broke from his thick lips. "What that guy don't know is that
I'm beginning to get a kick out of tangling with him!"



CANDIDATE FOR A COFFIN

By T. W. FORD

     Wilson Lamb cuddled his automatic to play "Mr. Death" and fingered
     little Louis Engel for coffin cargo. But when he pulled the
     trigger, Whisper, the gun-cobra from Chi, spilled out of Doom's
     deck....

[Illustration]


Death stood on the Times Square subway platform, uptown side, waiting
for a subject. Death looked at himself in the gum machine mirror, then
down at his watch. It was exactly 4:12 P. M., Wednesday, December 10th.
When the second hand hit the "30" mark, he would turn around and the
person nearest would be It. Death wore a blue pin-stripe suit, well
fitting but slightly unpressed. Death's name was Wilson Lamb.

The second hand wiped over the "20" of the smaller dial, jittered on
toward the half-minute spot. Inexorable and meaningless. Just as what
Wilson Lamb planned. He said "Now" with a little sucking in of breath
and a thin anticipant smile and spun on his heel. He was a slim
saturnine-faced man with cigaret-ash stain on a coat lapel.
Undistinguished from any typical strap-hanger except perhaps by the
light-hued eyes. His shoes needed a shine. He lifted the pale eyes from
them and looked for the corpse to be. To the left. To the right. Then he
came as near recoiling from the thing as he ever would.

It looked as if it might be a woman. Somehow he had always thought of
killing a man. Something that could strike back. Not that he would get
the chance. It was just the idea of the thing. But she, the woman, was
descending the stairs that led up to the shuttle, bearing down toward
him, less than twenty feet away. Big and billowy and red-faced, waddling
along like a sow. To face a jury, charged with doing away with a hunk of
human beef like that and--

He flashed a glance to the left again. Nobody near. It was a fluke of
circumstance a score of people weren't buzzing all about him. He whipped
his eyes back toward the woman as a local thundered in. And Luck took a
hand. A stocky man dodged around from behind the woman and came rapidly
down the platform, neat, crisp, briefcase under his arm.

Wilson Lamb's pale eyes flickered with amusement. He said softly, "Tag,
you're it, John W. Goon." This was his corpse to be. Mr. Death had made
his pick-up.

"_Ex_-cuse me." An express rolled in and cutting over for it, the stocky
man brushed Lamb. His voice was mild, colorless. He wore a gray
snap-brim hat; it was set squarely on his head, precisely level. Lamb
had seen hats worn like that by show-window clothing dummies. The man
entered the third car, middle door. Wilson Lamb boarded it on his heels.

His victim almost got a seat. A pimply-faced office boy elbowed him out
of it and the man turned away meekly. He hooked himself onto a strap,
hitched the briefcase up under his free arm, and concentrated on a
segment of his folded-open newspaper. It was one of the conservative
sheets, comic-less, reactionary Republican to the core. Wilson eased
down the aisle, casually pushing a woman out of his way, and glanced
over his victim's shoulder. The goon was studying an advertisement for a
nine-piece living room suite, overstuffed, at "special reduction this
week only." It was at one of the better department stores.

Amusement flickered in Wilson Lamb's pale eyes. He got the picture. A
typical George Babbitt in the flesh. To the core.

At Seventy-second Street, the stocky man got a seat. When he faced the
light, Lamb saw that he was turning slightly gray over the ears. He had
a roundish face, a little fleshy under the chin, a soft-lipped mouth
that from habit he held slightly pursed, muddy eyes. He was inclined to
plumpness. Somebody had scuffed his right shoe in getting out and now he
pulled up the pant leg of his dark grey suit to study it ruefully.

"Typical taxpayer," Lamb said to himself, savoring it. "Always makes his
insurance payments on time.... Probably has weak arches.... Is going to
buy the Five Foot book-shelf, always next week, and read it.... Would
like to get up nerve enough to take that blonde steno at the office out
to luncheon...." Wilson Lamb wanted to laugh out loud; it was as good as
having a duck flutter down smack in front of your blind.

Past 86th, the Express roared. Lamb's victim had turned his paper,
halved back the last page. Automatic pencil poised, he was scanning the
crossword puzzle intently. As they lolled through 91st, he bared his
teeth in a satisfied smile and rapidly filled in four vertical blanks,
then filled out the lower right-hand corner. Lamb saw that his four
upper front teeth were a neatly fitted denture. He wondered how they'd
look after a bullet had gone through them.

The victim got off at 96th, carefully straightening his muffler inside
his black overcoat. He went downstairs, crossed beneath the local
platform to the west side, mounted to street level. He had a cigaret in
his mouth but waited until he was outside the subway entrance before he
put a match to it. Lamb lit one too. He picked up an evening paper from
the newsstand--it might come in handy if he got to close quarters with
the dope and wanted to mask his face. The newsdealer was looking the
other way as he made change so Lamb plucked back his nickel.

       *       *       *       *       *

The victim started to cross 96th Street, heading north. A traffic
officer's whistle shrilled. Broadway was spattered with the ruby red of
traffic lights. Vehicles moved crosstown. Dutifully Lamb's goon turned
and retraced his steps to the curb, holding his four-square hat
carefully. A little trick with skimpy skirts whipped about plump calves
crossed on over. Watching her, Lamb's victim shook his head.

Lamb could hear him saying: "Tsk! Tsk! Foolish to take chances like
that." Imagine him saying it, anyway.

Lamb kept at a cautious distance as they moved several blocks up
Broadway. Walking briskly, the victim turned into a side street. There
was something smug about the way he picked up his heels, swung his
briefcase.

"Little man who has had a busy day with a job well done," Lamb
paraphrased it sarcastically. He pushed his battered felt hat further
back on his head in a gesture of disgust. His cheap unbuttoned
raglan-style coat fluttered in the wind off the Hudson. Abruptly, the
man ahead halted, wheeled.

Lamb calmly turned and opened the rear door of a parked sedan whose
driver was at the wheel. Put a foot in. Down the block, his victim
headed into a distinctly second-rate apartment hotel. Lamb said to the
sedan driver, "I thought this was a hearse" and went down the block.

His victim was getting his mail at the desk when Lamb entered the shabby
lobby. Lamb got on the elevator after him. The victim said "nine,"
immersed in his paper again, studying that living room suite. He had his
key ready in his hand, terra cotta-hued tab swinging loose. "914" was
lettered on it in black.

"Ten, Bud," Lamb told the operator.

On the tenth floor, he moved quickly down the frayed carpet of a
corridor and found the service stairs. Back on the ninth, even when he
was yards from the door of 914, he caught the odor of cooking. Rich and
greasy. He got his ear against the door.

"Spare-ribs and sauerkraut, huh, Ede?" the victim was calling out
inside. Lamb could visualize him putting his coat on a hanger, carefully
folding a scarf over it.

From the rear of the apartment came Ede's voice, reedy and with a bit of
a whine. Lamb could visualize her too, a dyed blonde who devoured film
fan magazines and thought the girdle was the world's greatest invention.
"Uh-huh. How'd things go downtown today, Lou?"

Through the thin door, Lamb heard him clear his throat, mutter, "Oh,
so-so."

But Ede wasn't to be put off. "Lou, did you tell the boss you had to
have a raise, that the job is worth more?"

Lou started to mumble something. Ede's voice, penetrating the door
easily, rose to a querulous pitch. "Lou, you're too easygoing! You ain't
got the sense to stand up for your rights. You're an expert in your line
and you know it. There's never any kick-back or complaint on a job you
do."

"I know, I know, Ede but--" Wilson Lamb's victim got in.

"You're entitled to more money, Lou! You've never bungled a job yet. I
need a new coat. And you said you wanted to put the kid in a private
school after the first of the year. How're we gonna do it if you
don't--"

Lou said, "Look, Ede! Something came up today and the boss had to leave
in a hurry--right in the middle of a conference. I just had time to grab
my briefcase myself. Let's get to work on those spare-ribs."

They moved toward the rear of the apartment and Lamb out in the hall
could hear no more. He was chuckling as he walked away, loose mouth
curled in a sneer. Back on the tenth floor, he boarded the elevator
again. Again it was empty except for the operator, a tow-headed kid with
a Racing Form tucked in a side pocket.

"Funny thing," Lamb mentioned casually, "I could've sworn I knew that
man who rode up with me. Stocky chap. Got off at the ninth. But I can't
seem to recall his name."

"Mr. Engel, yuh mean?"

"Engel ... Engel ... Lou Engel? Is he an accountant?"

"Yeah, Louis Engel's the name. But he ain't no accountant. Comes from
Chicago. I heard him tell the manager he was an efficiency expert."

Lamb stopped rattling the coins in his pocket suggestively, kept them
there, and strolled toward the main entrance. Behind him, a lobby
lounger moved over to the elevator boy, jerking his chin in Wilson
Lamb's direction as he asked a question.

At the corner, Lamb stopped in and bought a drink. Thin face creased in
a smile of self-satisfaction, he glanced at the paper he had bought.
Below the latest war communiques was a small column-head about a
threatened gang war in the numbers racket. "Police Raid Joe 'The
Flasher' Abadirro's Headquarters," it said. Lamb's eyes picked up
flashes of it. "... when plainclothes squad walked into luxurious
apartment ... mid-town West Side hotel ... several henchmen taken into
custody on technical charges ... Abadirro reported out of town ...
police acting on tip killers imported from Chicago ... showdown
anticipated on who will boss numbers racket in metropolitan area...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lamb turned the paper over and winked at himself in the concave mirror
of the semi-circle of bar. That was unimportant claptrap to somebody
like him. That kind of tripe was for the little Joe Dopes who got their
thrills vicariously. There was going to be nothing vicarious about what
he was going to do. He was going to rub out Louis Engel. Blast him.
Louis the Goon, as he had already christened him in his mind. He had put
the finger on him.

"Louis the Goon is going to die," Wilson Lamb said softly. He liked the
sound of it.

He wasn't crazy. Long ago he had assured himself of that. It was just
that his mind operated on a different, a higher, plane than the norm. He
was not one of the little pieces of protoplasm running along with the
herd. He was above them. Looking down on them. Studying them. His
perspective ranged somewhat further than the end of his nose, the latest
double-feature at the neighborhood movie house, and spare-ribs.

That last made him laugh out loud. He picked up his change and headed
back for the subway and his two-room apartment in the Village. His gun,
a .45 automatic, was there. He would be needing it soon. Louis the Goon
practically demanded, invited, the use of a .45 automatic on him.

"Efficiency engineer," Lamb said to himself once.

The guy was the perfect subject. Ripe for murder. The more Lamb thought
of it, the more he was convinced he couldn't have dreamed up a better
stooge. Engel was a model--for homicide. He himself might die for it.

But that was unimportant. The killing of Louis the Goon was the only
thing that counted. The results, materially speaking, meant nothing.
This slaying was to be an exposition of the ego. Without other cause.
Emotionless. With no hope of gain, financial or otherwise. No female
involved. Nothing. Just a killing, a plain open and shut case of
homicide for no earthly reason imaginable to the police. It would be
amusing to watch those flatfoots sitting around trying to sift a motive
out of the thing. Baby, they'd sweat their so-and-so's off trying to
cook up a reason for this one.

It was so simple to Lamb himself. Inevitable. A logical step in a
sequence. The final step, perhaps. Louis the Goon Engel was a mere
walk-on in the piece, a spear-carrier doomed to death. Little better
than a papier mache dummy set up to be a target for the custard pie.
Only, in this case, the custard pie was to be a cupro steel-nosed
bullet.

To Lamb, it boiled down to an ultimate expression of the psyche. The
final test of one's ability to project the personal ego over all else in
the material world. Because the ego was the alpha and omega of all
living the moment one got above the level of animal existence, the mere
feeding of the face and satisfaction of the other instinctive physical
hungers. As Braunitsch had put it so succinctly, "Even the lowest worm
can procreate itself--unfortunately."

Then, of course, there was Nietsche and his superman. And some of Freud.
And that treatise of Van de Water, the Belgian, on the sublimation of
the sub-conscious by the negation of the self-censor. And the papers of
Braulinski of the old University of Warsaw on the fear trauma which he
termed a birthmark of civilization. Lamb had gone into them all, deeply.
All of them dealing with the ego. The ego and its development and
complete consummation. And the killing of Louis the Goon Engel was going
to be the consummation of Wilson Lamb's experiments in the total
exemplification of that ego.

It was no brash idea, no hare-brained impulse concocted in one's cups,
perhaps. Analytically, objectively, he had thought out the whole thing.
The axis of life was the psyche. Its two poles were birth and death.
And, as Braunitsch had stated, the former was a function, often
accidental, of which the lowest animal order was capable. A mono-cell,
the amoeba, was able to reproduce itself by the simple stratagem of
sub-division. But death--when it became a deliberate action,
administered without emotion or hope of material gain--was one step
removed from the godhead. Perhaps less than one step. But the step that
would raise one above all the little fumbling, blind-spawning, life
hugging bipeds who infested the scene.

In short, birth was fortuitous, a product of circumstance plus
proximity, its get a biological accident. But death--the taking of
life--was a selective process, intentionally executed, the result a
foreseen conclusion. In so doing, the taking of life, you broke the
greatest law of humanity and so became above it. You unfettered the ego
with a single ineradicable stroke. In taking a life, one tasted the
essence of living. He tried to remember who had said that. De Maupassant
had put it better but Lamb could not quite recall the quotation....

He was still trying to remember it as he lounged down the block from
Engel's apartment hotel at 8:10 the next morning. There was a
bone-chilling breeze off the Drive that made Lamb belt his coat tighter
about him. When, at 9:35, Louis the Goon Engel had not made an
appearance, Lamb went down to the corner drugstore and had a cup of
coffee. He could not see the entrance of the hotel through the window.
But he commanded a clear view of the street and anybody coming up it
toward the subway. And if he ever saw one, his corpse-to-be was a
methodical little piece of humanity. He would come and go to the subway
by the same route.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wilson Lamb was correct as he had never doubted. But it was 11:07 by his
wrist watch before Engel emerged. The gray hat just as squarely set on
his head as before, without a glance around, Engel came out of the hotel
and turned his steps dutifully in the direction of the subway. Lamb was
strolling on the other side of the street at the moment. On sight of
him, he turned up the front stairs of a brownstone. But a few seconds
later, his long legs were carrying him rapidly toward Broadway. By
hustling, he got to the other side of it, entered the subway on the
uptown side, crossed underneath and was waiting in the by-pass when
Engel came along. Engel trotted up to the downtown express platform.
When the next train pulled out, Lamb was in the vestibule, half a
car-length away from him.

Taking the trouble to keep at a distance, to make himself inconspicuous,
seemed almost wasted effort. Louis the Goon went along, looking neither
to right nor left, docilely intent on minding his own business.

"Efficiency expert," Lamb said to himself. "Bet he's a cracker-jack at
cutting down on the overhead."

It was like playing a game of cat-and-mouse with him, Wilson Lamb, the
cat. Only in this instance, the mouse seemed as good as blind.

Lamb could have given it to him any time, a slug in the back that would
terminate his little life the way you would step on a cockroach. On
second thought, he would not give it to him in the back. It would be the
front so he could see the stricken stupid look of surprise. He'd
probably try to get his foolish little briefcase in front of him like a
shield. Lamb could just see it. Hear his squeal of futile protest, too.

Yes, he could give it to him whenever he chose. Just walk up to him and
squeeze the trigger and savor omnipotence for a moment. Very simple. At
his leisure. But Wilson Lamb wasn't going to do it that way. That would
have been like a blind stab, in the dark, meaningless, impersonal. Like
taking a hack at a piece of meat. Or tossing a bomb into a crowd.
Instead, he wanted to know something about his specimen before he
exterminated him. Understand his background. Get a fair picture of the
little sphere of the life from which he was all unknowingly about to
depart.

Lamb didn't figure it to take long in the case of Louis the Goon. What
Engel was was pretty patent. A typical little taxpayer, careful to keep
his nose clean, asking only to be permitted to tread his narrow path
unmolested. Undoubtedly the type who got sick to his stomach at the
sight of blood even though it might be no more than a nose-bleed.

At 42nd Street, Louis the Goon got off and trundled over to the shuttle.
He passed through the Grand Central Station, stopping off to buy a
package of Camels en route. The cigar store had a counter display of a
bargain buy of razor blades combined with some unknown brand of shaving
cream. Engel hovered over it like a bargain-hunting housewife. The clerk
put on his spiel. Engel bought, got stuck for a bottle of after-shave
lotion too.

Lamb saw it all from over by the counter of the baggage-checking room.
"'A penny saved is a penny earned,'" he paraphrased for him.

They cut through the Graybar Building to come out on Lexington. Engel
proceeded north a few blocks, turned into one of the commercial hotels
noted for its name band. Halfway across the lobby, a tall swarthy man
with one of those deadpan faces rose to greet him. They shook hands.

"You're right on the dot," the tall man said.

Engel's pursed mouth lengthened in a flattered smile. "I always make it
a point to be punctual," Lamb dawdling in the background, overheard him
say.

Then they headed for the elevator bank. The tall one shot two glances
backward as they did so Lamb couldn't make it too obvious. When he
rounded the corner of the ell where the elevators were, they were gone.
Lamb went back into the main lobby and ensconced himself behind a
morning paper. Midway down the page was more about the threatened strife
in the numbers racket. It didn't interest Lamb in the slightest.

Engel probably had gone upstairs to try and peddle one of his efficiency
schemes to some big shot. The guy he'd met in the lobby was a
go-between, doubtlessly. Lamb wondered whether Louis the Goon would get
up the nerve to hit his boss for that raise today, as Ede had demanded.

Lamb almost lost him. Half an hour later. Louis the Goon came down and
scooted out the side entrance in a hurry. When Lamb got out there, his
man was already in a cab, shooting away. There was something wrong about
the conservative, penny-saving Engel taking a taxi. Wilson Lamb did not
realize it at the time.

They went westward across town. Over near Sixth, Lamb's driver lost the
other cab. Lamb was cursing when he spotted Engel on the sidewalk,
coming back across town. That was strange because he could have sworn
Engel's cab had not stopped. Must have gotten it mixed up with another.
Out, he threaded his way recklessly through a welter of vehicles and
picked up the tail as his man entered an office building.

It was fairly crowded in that foyer and it was simple to step onto the
elevator right at Louis the Goon Engel's back, then wheel behind him out
of sight as he turned. Engel called "Fourteen" and got out there,
briefcase tightly clutched up under his arm, its flap unbuckled.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Going in to high-pressure somebody on a sale," Lamb figured.

Another passenger had called fifteenth, the next floor. Lamb got out
there, found the built-in fire escape, and got down to fourteen. This
was a little foolish, he realized. There was no way of finding what
office Louis the Goon had visited. Still, he might see him when he came
out. Maybe he had gone to see the boss about that raise Ede was
demanding. Maybe he'd come out bouncing on his tail-feathers. It was fun
following and watching Louis the Goon. Like watching an ant on a
sidewalk flagstone puttering about its puny business, knowing you were
going to stamp out its life when it so pleased you.

Lamb was just lighting a cigaret, gazing down the hallway of the
fourteenth floor, when the muffled report came up the staircase. It
didn't seem possible, a gun seemed so out of place in such
surroundings.... Then there were two more shots, a scream intermixed.
The shattering of plate glass. Lamb was down the stairs and pulling open
the firedoor onto the floor below. Immediately he sniffed the acrid
fumes of gunpowder.

He was looking out onto an ell of that floor. Onto a tableau of
violence. There was just a single office suite on that ell, directly
opposite him. On one of its double doors was lettered "Continental
Exhibition Corp." The frosted glass of the other door was almost
completely broken out, leaving a jagged-fringed aperture through which
to view the scene within.

Wilson Lamb flattered himself on being pretty cool headed under all
circumstances. But he blinked three times rapidly now. Inside the
Continental Exhibition Corporation one man was slumped over a desk, an
automatic half-gripped in his inert hand. He was very dead. Half his
head was shot off. Another man was sprawled on the gray broadloom of the
reception room, a brownish puddle beneath his side. He wasn't going to
be going any place in a hurry, either.

Even as Lamb stared at the carnage, a third figure appeared, wobbling
drunkenly from an inner office. He came stooped over, holding his side.
Crimson-speckled froth at his lips. He got to the shattered glass panel
and moved the lips at Wilson Lamb.

"Tell 'em--the police--it was--was Whisper Ross from--from Chi--" He
coughed twice on the "Chicago," then caved in on himself and went flat
in the hallway.

Lamb saw an ashen-face bespectacled man peering around the corner of an
ell. From further back, through an open doorway, a girl's voice was
shrieking for the police over the phone. Lamb remembered the fact that
he had a gun on his person. It might be extremely embarrassing if the
police picked him up for questioning. Ducking back through the firedoor,
he ran quickly up to the sixteenth floor, up past the fifteenth. Nothing
had been heard up there yet. He caught a down car and got out just as
the first prowl car came sirening its way into the side street curb.

Afterward, outside the police cordon thrown around the building,
somebody jostled against him, peered under his hat brim. Later, Lamb
recalled the bluish scar crescent on his left cheek.

"Hey, aren't you Reynolds of the Dispatch, pal?"

"Nope," Lamb said.

"You're a reporter with one of the local sheets, aren't you?" the other
persisted. "I know I've seen you around before."

"You must have been wearing your other glasses, Bud," Lamb said and
turned away.

Maybe it was the effect of seeing the handiwork of that other unknown
killer. For the police had nabbed nobody yet in that mid-town mid-day
shooting. Anyway, Lamb had the itch to strike. It was like a thirst
building in a guy. You've seen somebody else dip into a tall cool one
and after a while you feel like you got to have one yourself. Those
three dead men on the thirteenth floor of that office building had acted
like an aphrodisiac on Wilson Lamb. He wanted to get him his corpse. But
soon.

He knew it when he picked up his victim again. It was almost 4 P.M.,
shreds of snow drifting down through New York's early darkness. He was
hanging around by the cab stand above 96th on the west side of Broadway,
waiting hopefully. He had got so that he felt a little lonely when he
didn't have Louis the Goon right handy. He felt on familiar terms with
the guy. Of course, Louis the Goon didn't know him. And when he
introduced himself, Louis was going to get one hell of a big surprise.
Like a kick in the teeth only a lot more permanent.

One of the hackies turned up his radio. A news commentator was on. He
came to the topic of the mid-town shooting. Three dead, gunned in the
office of the Continental Exhibition Corporation. Lamb edged over
nearer. The Continental outfit, the announcer said, was the business
front of one Big John Girra, well known local racketeer. Girra was a
powerful figure in the metropolitan pin-ball game syndicate and had a
piece of the number policy racket too.

"Police, promising an arrest within twenty-four hours, claim the triple
killing a step in the fight for control of the numbers game business in
this city. They are still seeking the missing Joe The Flasher Abadirro,
also reputed to have boasted he would take over the numbers game. Two of
the slain men have been identified as close associates of Big John
Girra. A building employee stated earlier today that Girra left the
premises less than five minutes before the killing. A prominent police
official who refused to be quoted asserted the killer was a Chicago
torpedo imported for the job, a killer who would not be recognized by
members of the New York mobs. 'We are closing in on him at this very
instant,' the official concluded."

       *       *       *       *       *

The news broadcaster went on to another item of the day's reports. Lamb
turned around. And there was Louis the Goon Engel, not four feet away.
En route home from the subway, he had paused to listen to the report
too. He stood now with a calculating look, almost as if he were checking
the verity of the report. Lamb wanted to laugh in his face.

"If you'd seen those three carcasses leaking blood all over the place,
you'd probably have swooned in your britches, my little dope," Lamb
addressed him mentally. And the funny part was that the little dope had
been so close to it. Just a floor away, in fact.

As he followed him on uptown, down his side-street, Lamb had a curious
sense of elation. He was in on the ground-floor of Death, Inc. Even
before voting at a stock-holders' meeting himself. For he knew who had
triggered those three today, who the Chi torpedo the cops wanted was.
One Whisper Ross. Of course, he might have tipped off the police say, by
a phone call. But he wasn't going to.

"We killers must stick together." The thought tickled his sense of
humor.

They were almost at Louis the Goon's roost when Lamb saw how he was
going to do it. A boy with a carton of groceries almost ran down Louis,
then ducked down into the delivery entrance of the apartment-hotel. And
Wilson Lamb had his cue.

Some ten minutes later, after due investigation, he knew how he was
going to put Louis the Goon on the spot. And how he was going to get
away with it, get clear afterward. The taking of life was the important
thing, the major premise. Whether he was caught or not had never seemed
important before. But after reviewing the handiwork of Whisper Ross--who
had ambled off unimpeded--Lamb saw no reason why he should not do the
same. It would be the nth degree in the epitomization of the ego to kill
and get away with it.

The building's delivery entrance was a perfect avenue of escape.
Actually it did not enter the hotel at first. Down a few steps and then
it ran rearward between the side of the building and the retaining wall
next door, an open-topped alleyway. The delivery doorway was in the
rear. A few feet further on was the backyard laid out in a garden with a
waterless age-browned concrete fountain in the center. A low concrete
wall separated it from the property that backed onto it. And there was
the payoff.

Ambling casually through in the darkness, Lamb had discovered that the
property in the rear, facing on the next street downtown, was several
feet lower. It would be simple to drop over the wall to its paved
courtyard. And from that ran a concrete passage beside the apartment
house out to the street one block below.

Emerging on it, Lamb lit a cigaret and went back around the block to
Engel's place. He appraised it like a surveyor. First off, it was one of
those second-rate places that boasted no doorman. Across the street were
those brownstones for a nice dim background. The nearest street lamp was
down about ten feet from the entrance of Engel's place. Engel would come
walking along primly, right into its light. A man crossing the street
from the brownstones, a little behind Engel, calling out, "Hey, Mr.
Engel," and--

It was a very nice set-up. The property line of the building where Engel
lived was set back several feet further than that of the old-fashioned
private homes between it and Broadway. They would serve as a screen for
his movements from one direction when he hit into that delivery alleyway
after fixing Louis the Goon's wagon once and for all, Lamb realized. It
was almost ridiculously simple.

Why he could almost have chalked an "X" right there and then on the
sidewalk where little Louis would lie down and forget it all. Wilson
Lamb hummed as he headed up toward Broadway and decided to have dinner.
He had a swell appetite. He was humming snatches from something. Minor
key, descending scale. It went "Come to Papa, come to Papa, come to
Papa." He didn't know whether it was from a song or a crap game. Anyway,
the dice were sure loaded against a certain party he knew.

Down the block, a taxi that had been parked with meter ticking across
from Engel's apartment-hotel drew away slowly.

He went to the movies with Louis the Goon that evening. Louis didn't
know anything about it and Lamb bought his own ticket. That too had been
extremely simple. After dinner, he had phoned Engel. When Louis himself
answered, Lamb had asked for Toots. Louis said they had no Toots there
and Lamb said he was very sorry, that he must have got the wrong number.
And Louis said that was all right, no harm done. And Lamb said he was
sorry he had disturbed him and Louis said to think nothing of it, no
trouble at all. And Lamb said a four-letter word after he had hung up
and laughed out loud in the phone booth.

Then he hung around and saw Louis come out after dinner. Ede was with
him this time. Ede was the type after which some department store
advertising-department diplomat had coined the term "stylish stout." Ede
toddled and she was pretty hefty. If there was a family argument, Lamb
would have laid two to one she would have come home in front by a t.k.o.
before the fifth round.

       *       *       *       *       *

They went into the movies on the north-west corner of 96th. The closest
Lamb could get was some three rows back. He was disappointed because he
could not watch Engel's face. It was a double feature. _Pampas Nights_
was one of those alleged South American musicals whipped up by a couple
of submorons with the intent purpose of sabotaging the Good Neighbor
policy. The other picture was some ghoulish thing about a mad surgeon,
described in the script as an "ego-maniac," who had a pleasant pastime
of revivifying electrocuted felons. That one gave Lamb a pain in the
pants too. He had really made a study of ego-maniacs.

He got out in the foyer right behind the Engels. He heard Ede say she
thought the one about that "nutty doc" was so thrilling. Louis the Goon
did not agree. He liked those musicals.

"They take my mind off business," he said.

Lamb left them and went in and had a drink. He had two drinks. Now that
everything was settled, he felt no impatience. It was all lined up right
down to the final curtain. Louis' final curtain. Lamb had already
decided he would give it to him as he came plodding his smug little way
home some evening. Any evening. Maybe tomorrow evening. Now that the
details were ironed out, it was fun to leave the closing date open. He
could play the fly-on-the-wall in Louis the Goon's life as long as he
wanted. And when he got bored with Louis's act--bop! he would deliver
his compact little package to Louis....

He started to get bored fast the next day. He rode downtown with Louis
and they went over to that same East side hotel and Louis went upstairs.
He was gone a long time. Lamb said to himself, "That dope goes around in
a rut and I'll get in one too just following him and then I will get
sore." Eventually Louis the Goon came back down into the lobby. The
tall, swarthy man he had met there the day before was with him.

"Well, I guess there'll be nothing doing today," Louis the Goon said.

"Nope, nothing," the other said.

They parted. Louis went down to the telephones, used one after
consulting a little black book. When he came out, he bought a white
carnation for his button-hole in the florist shop, then treated himself
to three twenty-five-center Perfectos.

"Something builds," Lamb told himself. Outside, when Louis the Goon got
a taxi, there was something positively cocky about him. Lamb was humming
his "Come to Papa" again as he took another and trailed him eastward
this time. Louis got out at a Third Avenue bar and grill and went in.
Lamb gave him five minutes and strayed in himself. There was no Louis.
Not at first, anyway. Lamb could feel his pulse beat faster.

Then he spotted the dim backroom with the booths. And he went through it
to the Men's Room. And there was Louis the Goon--his little clay
pigeon--in one of the booths with a doll. She was red-haired by courtesy
of the local beauty parlor, cuddling up in a flashy little leopard fur
number. She looked like a dance-hall hostess from one of those joints
where everything goes so long as you keep time to the music.

As Lamb passed, she was saying, "Now, Daddy--" That almost unbuttoned
Lamb. Daddy! On his way back, he noticed there were two others in the
backroom, a couple of men gnawing on pretzels over beers.

He stepped back into the bar just in time. Three men had entered. They
headed straight for the rear. One of them shouldered Wilson Lamb from
his path as if he did not see him. The second one pulled out a cannon
and poked it at the bartender and told him to keep his britches on. Then
the other two were in the rear and letting go with their cannon.

Slammed over against the bar, Lamb had a split-second glimpse of it. For
a moment, it almost seemed as if the damn fools were out after Engel.
One shot smashed the table lamp in the booth where he sat. Then the two
beer drinkers back in there were around and swapping it out with cannon
of their own with the newcomers.

Lamb got out of there fast. He got across the street. He saw two men
dash out of a side entrance and into a dark sedan that roared away. He
did not see Louis the Goon get out. Then the howling prowl cars
converged on the scene. And there was an ambulance. It took one guy
away. Another guy, it didn't. Lamb worked his way up into the throng and
got a glimpse of the other guy getting stiff on the backroom floor.
Everybody else was lined up in the bar for questioning. Engel was not
among them. So Lamb knew he must have gotten away all right.

"This is some more of that numbers racket war," a gray-haired sergeant
said. And then Lamb began to taste something like panic even as the
first neon signs began to smear the wintry shadows. He got afraid he
might lose his little clay pigeon. Louis the Goon seemed to have a
blind genius for getting on the scene when some blood-letting was due.
He felt a certain possessiveness toward Louis. Louis belonged to him.
And he wasn't going to have him chopped down by any piece of stray lead.
Lamb had a bullet ear-marked for Louis.

       *       *       *       *       *

He said, "I've been wasting time." He got on the shuttle and over to the
West side and up to 96th and across the street from where Louis lived.
Well, where Louis used to live, anyway. He was there just twenty
minutes--it was 4:43 by his wristwatch--when Louis the Goon came down
from the corner. He couldn't make out his face at first but he knew him
by that square-set hat. Lamb eased away from the stairs of the
brownstone, humming "Come to Papa, come to Papa, come to Papa...." This
was it.

The ultimate in the demonstration or the ego.... He told himself that as
he moved over the scabrous snow of the street.... The zenith in the
projection of the psyche.... Louis the Goon had his briefcase clutched
up under one arm instead of swinging.... The final triumph over the fear
trauma.... Louis was abreast of him, then passing by. Wilson Lamb
brought the automatic out from under his coat. He called, "Mr. Engel--"
And Louis the Goon turned and Lamb held it, wanting him to get a good
look at the heater, wanting to get a good look at him as he saw it.

Engel had the briefcase open, unbuckled. He was bringing something out
of it swiftly, jerkily. It was a heater too. That wasn't in the script.
Louis the Goon was stepping out of role. But Lamb knew he had him anyway
and started to squeeze. He would squeeze three times on that trigger
and--

Somebody else squeezed first. It was the man running from that parked
car down the street. Lamb got it in the side and then a red-hot finger
was probing down into his guts. A man stepped from the vestibule of one
of those brownstones and he squeezed and Wilson Lamb couldn't feel the
side of his head any more. Knew he would never feel it again. He was
down on one hand and one knee and his gun was gone. Some place in the
black haze seething around him. Like a hurt animal, half crawling,
knowing only the base instinct of self preservation, he tried for that
delivery alleyway.

Somebody else had figured that was a good spot too. It was the man with
the bluish cheek scar who had accosted him after the triple-killing in
that office building. He squeezed. And Lamb took that one square on the
chest. In a vague way, as the sidewalk slid up at him, he was aware of
that car back-firing away like hell.

The man with the blue scar was standing over him, throwing words to
Louis the Goon in a quick, harsh whisper. "This is the one, Whisper. He
come in here with you Wednesday. He was on the spot when you give it to
them boys in Girra's office, yesterday. Today, he was in that bar when
they tried to get you. The Flasher said to stick close to you--an' him."

"Girra's finger man, eh?" called back Engel softly.

"Yeah, Whisper." The blue-scarred man ran. In a moment, a car roared off
down the block toward West End Avenue.

Lying there on the sidewalk, blasted for keeps, his wagon fixed, Wilson
Lamb tried to put it together. Things moved very slowly for him.
Whisper. Whisper Ross, Chi torpedo. Then he had it. Whisper Ross was
Louis the Goon Engel. Hired killer of Joe The Flasher Abadirro. The guy
he, Wilson Lamb, had fingered for an exposition of his ego.

Down the sidewalk, little Mr. Louis Engel, alias Whisper Ross, stood
looking at the body and going "Tsk! Tsk!" through pursed lips. Wilson
Lamb's ego died a horrible death seventeen seconds before he did.



ONE HUNDRED BUCKS PER STIFF

by J. LLOYD CONRICH

     Mr. Peck was dead ... the papers said so. Yet Mr. Peck performed
     his own autopsy and saved eight men from death!]

[Illustration]


"There's a guy outside wants to see you, Chief," Charlie Ward's assistant
announced through the door.

"What's he want, Joe?"

"I don't know. Says his business is confidential and urgent. Wouldn't
say what. Looks harmless though, in spite of he drove up in a Rolls
Royce with a chauffeur."

"Well, send him in."

Ward busied himself with a sheaf of morning mail and miscellaneous
police circulars. Presently a small, immaculate looking individual with
an apologetic, breathless air entered the room and approached the desk
timidly. Silently, without even so much as a nod, he laid a newspaper
clipping before the Chief of Police. Adjusting his glasses, Ward reached
for the item and glanced through it hastily:

     MAN KILLED AT EL GATOS GRADE CROSSING

     El Gatos, November 1. The decapitated body of a man tentatively
     identified as J. Peter Peck, address unknown, was discovered by a
     company track walker early this morning on the South West Pacific
     grade crossing half a mile south of the town of El Gatos. Local
     police believe that the man was killed some time after midnight,
     possibly by the San Francisco milk train. Identification was
     established by a wallet containing papers of the deceased.

Ward laid the clipping on his desk, rolled a bulbous wad of chewing
tobacco into one cheek and expelled it into a spitoon some ten feet away
with a resounding plunk. Wiping his chin inexpertly with the back of a
grizzled hand, he looked up and eyed his visitor interrogatively.

"I clipped it from last night's _San Francisco Bulletin_," the latter
explained quietly. "I drove practically all night so as to be here this
morning."

"You're a relative?"

The stranger smiled weakly and placed a pair of painfully thin hands on
the desk as though to steady himself.

"Well, no, not exactly; that is, somewhat," he answered obscurely.

Charlie Ward eyed the little man curiously. "Come again, please?"

"Well, it's this way," slipping nervously to the very edge of a
convenient chair. "There appears to have been a slight error made. The
clipping is somewhat inaccurate."

"Sure. Half the stuff you see in the papers these days is cockeyed. Them
guys never get anything straight. I always tell my wife you gotta
believe only ten per cent of what you read and doubt that."

The stranger smiled thinly. "Precisely. Now the real truth of the matter
in this particular case is that _I_ happen to be J. Peter Peck and, to
the best of my knowledge, I'm not dead. In fact I'd take issue with
anyone who questioned the fact. I therefore feel that the report has
been exaggerated; just a tiny bit, at least." He paused for breath. "I
thought you'd like to know."

Ward arched his brows and smiled calmly. As a veteran police officer, he
was used to surprises. "Well, now that's one for the book, ain't it?"

"Rather."

"So, if you're the guy that's supposed to be downstairs on ice," Ward
supplemented, fumbling in a drawer of his desk, "how come we find this
here wallet with your name all over the papers inside on him?"

Mr. Peck glanced at the wallet.

"Very easily explained," he answered. "I was held up last Monday evening
in San Francisco. The wallet and the papers it contains were among the
things taken from me. Incidentally, there were several thousands of
dollars in the wallet when I last saw it."

Ward whistled softly. "How much?"

"About twenty-four hundred dollars."

"That's a lot of dollars."

"It would keep a man in cigars for a day or two."

"And this guy, after he stuck you up," Ward reasoned, "left Frisco and
come North where he had the bad luck to meet with an accident."

"Precisely."

"What'd he look like?"

"There were two of them. One had red hair and his left ear was missing.
The other was short; about my size, I would say; rather thin, with a
small, black, straggly mustache and swarthy skin. I should judge he were
either an Italian or possibly a Spaniard."

"The second one fits the guy on ice. Want to take a squint at him?"

Mr. Peck jumped to his feet.

"I'd be delighted," he said with what sounded to Charlie Ward like
unwarranted glee.

Ward picked up a flask of corn whiskey and slipped it into his hip
pocket.

"I warn you," he cautioned as he rose, "this guy's pretty much worked
over in spots. A train went through him you know. Some people get goose
pimples looking at them kind of things."

"I'll risk it."

       *       *       *       *       *

The pair left the office and descended a flight of steps. At the end of
a dark corridor, Ward led the way into a basement room. Upon one of two
marble slabs in the center of the room, lay a sheeted corpse. Ward
pulled the shroud back, revealing a horribly mangled body. Mr. Peck
leaned over the corpse, revealing none of the repulsion that Ward was
sure he would exhibit.

"Yes, that's unquestionably one of the men who held me up," the little
man said quietly. "I'd know that face anywhere, what there is left of
it. Er--seems to be quite dead, doesn't he?" he added wryly.

"Quite," Ward mimicked, wondering at the same time what strange complex
could cause a man of Mr. Peck's evident refinement and good breeding to
jest under such circumstances.

The little man leaned over the corpse again.

"Odd marks on his face, aren't they?" he observed.

"Huh?" Ward seemed startled.

"I said those were odd marks on his face," Mr. Peck repeated.

Ward's face clouded and he stepped closer to Mr. Peck.

"It's funny you should notice them red blotches, Mr. Peck," he said. "I
been kind of wondering about them myself."

The two men eyed one another for a moment of tense silence, and marked
suspicion.

"Why?" Mr. Peck asked abruptly.

Ward scanned the little man's face with an air of uncertainty.

"Er--do them marks mean anything to you?" he finally asked, his voice
tinged with caution.

Mr. Peck made no immediate answer, but turned and leaned closer to the
corpse, examining the faint red blotches on the cheeks with more care
than he had at first taken.

"To the casual observer, that is, to the layman," he said, removing his
glasses and facing Ward, "it might appear that the deceased was
suffering from a mild case of measles"--he paused, glanced at the corpse
again, then turned once more to Ward--"but to the trained eye, I would
say that this man has received a shot of xetholine caniopus into his
system."

"A shot of what?"

"The name means little. Xetholine caniopus is a drug; not rare, not
common, but violently poisonous. Contact, even to the lips or to a
flesh abrasion will bring about practically instantaneous paralysis of
the cardia." The little man blinked. "Er--the heart, I refer to.
Xetholine invariably leaves its mark, as you perceive, in the form of
faint red blotches on the cheeks." He thumbed in the direction of the
corpse. "Putting the diagnosis into simpler words, this man has been
poisoned. He died from the effects of the poison as is indicated by the
slight carmine tinge to the blood. The effect of this poison on the
blood stream is similar to that caused by asphyxiation by coal gas or a
similar substance, only not quite so brilliantly red. If this man had
died as a direct result of injuries received by the train passing over
his body, the blood would be darker, almost purple. Offhand, I would say
that the train passed over his body some several hours after his death.
Depending upon the determination as to whether the poison was self
administered or otherwise, will settle the question as to whether you
have a suicide or a murder case on your hands."

Ward stared into the little man's eyes in astonishment.

"Say," he interrupted, "who are you, anyhow?"

Mr. Peck smiled benevolently.

"My name," he explained, "you already know. I happen to be deeply
interested in criminology. It's been an avocation of mine for many
years. My specialty is toxicology. I...."

"Tox--tox...?"

"Toxicology; the study of poisons. The circumstances of this particular
case are unusually close to home and I feel a personal interest." He
paused and peered into Ward's face hesitantly and then added in a voice
that half pleaded and half apologized--"I--could I--would you allow me
to--er--work with you in this matter, Mr. Ward? I'd expect no pay, of
course," he hastened to add, "and I can assure you that my efforts will
be sincere and my intentions entirely honorable. My only interest is in
clearing up the matter, or at least attempting to do so, for
the--well--the fun of doing it."

"Some fun, all right," Ward observed wryly. "But, at that price, the
County can't lose much. You're hired."

"That's fine," Mr. Peck enthused, his eyes shining brilliantly. He
rubbed his palms together briskly. "I can't tell you how deeply grateful
I really am."

"Okay, Mr. Peck," with a shade of doubt. "It's your funeral. The paper
says so."

"Now first, I must make a test to satisfy myself that xetholine caniopus
was the actual cause of death. There are a few things I'll need; a
glass, an ordinary water glass will do, a small quantity of commercial
alcohol and a bit of lime water. My chauffeur will get the latter two,
if you'll supply the glass. Please notify him."

Ward hesitated, as though doubtful about leaving this unusual person
alone in the morgue, but finally assented.

A few minutes later he reappeared with the glass, followed almost
directly by the chauffeur with the alcohol and lime water.

"Thank you, Christian," Mr. Peck said in the chauffeur's direction. "You
may wait in the car."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ward's eyes followed the chauffeur as he left the room.

"He's a big guy all right," he observed, thumbing toward the vanishing
driver. "Sure must have et his mush every morning when he was a little
boy. Looks like he's about six foot six."

"Six, six and one-eighth in his stocking feet, to be exact," Mr. Peck
corrected. "Before meals he weighs two eighty-eight; after meals two
ninety-eight."

"Wouldn't want to run into him on a dark night."

"Hardly," Mr. Peck agreed. "When he first came to me, he applied for the
position which he now holds under the name of Mike Dennis and explained
that he generally answered to the intimate and thoroughly quaint
cognomen of 'Butch.' But I changed that to Christian. Of course 'Butch'
is more in keeping, but I do believe that Christian adds to his dignity
in spite of his ears. Don't you think so?" Ward grunted vaguely. "I have
it on good authority that he put Mr. Dempsey to sleep one evening about
fifteen years ago in an amateur boxing meet." Mr. Peck's eyes sparkled
as he glanced up from his work for a moment. "Unfortunately, I happen to
be worth several million dollars. There have been two attempts to abduct
me. Christian makes an excellent body guard as well as chauffeur. Not
much intellect, but most conscientious and as faithful as an old watch
dog. I've had him with me twenty-two months now and to date he's uttered
not more than twenty-two words; except, of course, when I speak with
him. A handy person to have about; most handy."

By now Mr. Peck had sterilized the glass with the alcohol and was
prepared to make his test.

"In the glass," he explained, holding the object toward the light, "I
have poured some lime water. By blowing one's breath into the liquid,
through a common cigarette holder, the lime water becomes a milky white;
thusly," and he suited the action to the word. "The balance of the test
is quite simple. Several drops of the deceased's coagulated blood are
now added to the water. As you see, there is no change. In a moment, I
will add a little alcohol. If the lime water clears and becomes
colorless again, and shows indication of a volatile oil on the surface,
you may rest assured that xetholine caniopus exists in the blood stream.
Although the test is simple, the chemical reaction is rather involved,
being a combination and then a dissemination of structural heraetixae
and third power phincus. I shall not, therefore, bother you with its
details. Suffice to say, the test is infallible and conclusive."

Ward scratched his head in hopeless perplexity and stared in mild
anticipation mingled with a great deal of skepticism as Mr. Peck poured
a small quantity of alcohol into the glass. Immediately, the liquid
became pure and colorless and the surface indicated a distinctly oily
film.

"All of which bears me out," Mr. Peck said quietly, placing the glass on
the table. "This man has been poisoned. Our next step is to determine
whether the poison was self administered or otherwise. We...."

"Just a minute, Mr. Peck," Ward interrupted, raising his hand. "There's
a couple of things here I ought to explain." Ward floundered for a
moment of hesitancy. "You see, it's this way. For about twenty years,
now, about twelve people a year have died in this here town; one a
month; that's the average."

"Yes; yes?" Mr. Peck interjected interestedly.

"But in the last month, eleven people have turned in their rain checks.
This guy's the twelfth."

"Which more or less upsets the law of averages."

"That's just what I'm getting at. But what's worse, is that ten out of
these twelve met with deaths from accidents of one kind or another."

"Just how do you mean?"

"Well, this guy, for instance," motioning toward the slab, "was bumped
by a train. The rest met with other accidents ranging all the way from
hit and run, down the line to falling off hay lofts and being kicked in
the head by a mule. Nobody seen any of the accidents, but the evidence
was such that you couldn't help see what happened. For instance, the guy
that was kicked by a mule, he had a hoof mark on his head and his mule
had a bloody hoof. The hit-run guy, we found in the middle of the high
way."

"Coincidence. Accidents almost invariably occur in threes or fours."

"Sure; threes and fours, but not tens and twelves. But there's something
else."

"... yes?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Charlie Ward moved a little closer and glanced behind him as he spoke.

"Of the ten who met with accidents," he said, "nine had these red marks
on their cheeks."

"Excellent! Gorgeous!" Mr. Peck enthused through grinning lips. "A
multiple murder! Nothing could be clearer or more fortunate!"

"Well, you may be tickled, Mr. Peck, but I ain't. Several of the victims
were close friends of mine."

Mr. Peck's attitude changed at once.

"I'm deeply sorry, Mr. Ward," he apologized. "My enthusiasm carried me
away for the moment. Please proceed."

Ward nodded and went on. "At first I didn't think very much about these
blotches, but when this guy was brought in this morning, I began to get
kind of nervous. As a matter of fact, I was just going to phone Frisco
for help when you come in."

Mr. Peck nodded and smacked his lips thoughtfully. He removed his
glasses and wiped them slowly and carefully, polishing each lens with
meticulous care.

"You of course have a coroner or medical examiner of some kind," he
finally said.

"Oh, sure. Old Doc Kraus handles the cases for the whole county when
they come up. There ain't enough to keep him on full time, but we send
for him whenever we need him. He makes the examination and runs the
inquest."

"What did he think about the red blotches on the faces of the nine
corpses?"

"Nothing. To tell you the truth I never thought enough about them to
bring it up.

"And he's never mentioned it to you."

"No."

"I can't possibly conceive of anyone missing them."

"The Doc's getting pretty old," Ward explained. "He don't see so good.
We been trying to get a younger saw-bones for a long time, but nobody
had the guts to tell him he was fired, I guess. He was born here; lived
here for seventy-two years. He's a nice enough old guy. Matter of fact,
everybody sort of looks up to him as the town granddad. He's a kindly
old duffer; always doing things for folks and going out of his way to
help a neighbor and things like that. I'll send for him and ask him if
he noticed the marks and what he thinks about them."

"No, I'd prefer it if you didn't. For the present, let's work quietly.
As far as I'm concerned, everybody's under suspicion and any word
getting out that we're working on the case might spoil things."

"Old Doc Kraus under suspicion!" Ward scoffed with a loud guffaw. "Say,
that's rich. Why, I'd trust him ahead of my own Dad and that's saying a
lot. Why he brought me into this world forty-two years ago. Used to
spank me when I was a kid and needed one. Why...."

"I did not say I suspected Doctor Kraus," Mr. Peck interrupted. "I
merely inferred that everybody was under suspicion until we begin to
find something definite to go on. The reasons, I believe, are obvious."

"I get you Mr. Peck."

"Now then, the inquest has been performed in this last case?"

"Yes; early this morning; just before you got here. They handed down a
verdict of accidental death."

"Have you made any attempts to identity the corpse?"

"Certainly. We figured it was you on account of the papers. We been
trying to trace you through the Frisco police. So far no information has
come in."

"That's quite possible. I lead a very quiet life; live at a bachelor
club and am not listed either in the phone book or the City Directory."

"I sent finger prints to the Frisco Police. If this guy's got a record,
we'll know who he is pretty quick."

"That's fine."

Mr. Peck stood for a moment with a thoughtful finger to his lips.

"I think we'll visit the spot where the body was discovered," he decided
abruptly. "We can go in my car."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten minutes later, J. Peter Peck, accompanied by Charlie Ward and
followed by Christian, stepped from the machine at a point opposite the
spot where the body had been found.

"A machine has stopped here at the side of the road quite recently," Mr.
Peck offered, pointing to the tire marks in the dust. "The occupant, as
is indicated by those very clear foot prints, stepped from the car,
crossed the ditch and walked to the railroad tracks. He was a heavy man,
at that, or at least he has big feet. And they turn out more than the
feet of the average person."

Charlie Ward nodded agreement.

"Now if you'll look closely," Mr. Peck went on, "you will observe that
there are two sets of foot prints; one coming and one going. The return
prints, significantly, are not as clear as those that go to the tracks,
indicating that he was carrying a load to the tracks, but did not return
with it." He glanced at Ward for a moment, then added, "It is pretty
obvious what that load was. All of which gives us practically undeniable
proof that a murder was committed. The deceased died of poison. We have
definitely established that point. And his body was placed upon the
tracks to conceal the fact; or to attempt to do so. If the deceased had
walked to the tracks himself, which of course he didn't because these
are not his foot prints, there obviously would be no return prints. Dead
men, especially decapitated dead men, seldom, if ever, retrace their
steps." He paused for a moment of conjecture. "We'll take plaster casts
of the foot prints as well as the tire marks. Will you attend to that
Christian? I believe you'll find sufficient plaster of Paris in the tool
compartment."

Christian set to work and Mr. Peck and Ward retreated to the machine.
When Christian had completed his work, the trio returned to
headquarters, Mr. Peck leaving again to "do a little thinking."

Two hours later, Mr. Peck entered Charlie Ward's office again and eased
himself into a chair.

"I have an idea," he informed Ward, "that the apprehension of the
murderer is but a matter of moments. As a matter of fact, I can put my
finger on him in ten minutes should I care to."

"You can put your finger on him right this minute if you want to," Ward
supplemented, taking his feet off the desk and flipping a cigarette butt
through the window.

"How so?"

Ward unlocked a drawer in his desk and drew out a tin box from which he
produced a thickly padded envelope.

"I been doing a little scientific snooping myself," he announced with a
proud ear to ear grin.

"That's extremely gratifying."

Ward thumbed toward a cigar butt in an ash tray.

"That," he said, "is what's left of a cigar you give me this morning. It
gives off a pretty thick aroma."

"It ought to. They cost me a dollar each."

"Just take a whiff of this," Ward said, handing the envelope to Mr.
Peck.

The latter smelled cautiously. "Why, it smells like my cigars."

"Exactly. Now take a squint in the envelope."

Mr. Peck opened the envelope and extracted a sheaf of currency.

"There's about twenty-four grand there," Ward offered.

"All of which is mine. It's the money that was taken from me when I was
held up. I had the wallet and several of the cigars in the same pocket.
The currency evidently became impregnated with the odor of the cigars.
Where did you get it?"

Ward shuffled leisurely through some papers, finally producing a
telegram.

"This wire," he said, flourishing the message with an extravagant
gesture, "come in from the Frisco police while you were out. It says the
guy downstairs on ice is Dominic Diaz. He was a guest at San Quentin up
to four days ago where he was serving ten to fifty years for some
mistakes he made when he was younger." Mr. Peck nodded interestedly. "It
also says that when he so rudely walked off the premises without
stopping to say goodbye, he was with a red headed monkey, minus one ear,
that answers to the name of Mike McSweeney."

"I see."

"Mr. McSweeney had the bad taste to try to stick up our local drug
emporium about half an hour ago."

"And he is now incarcerated in your bastille."

"Right. And he had your dough on him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ward sat back in his swivel chair, hooked his thumbs into the arm holes
of his vest and beamed. "Well, I guess that makes it pretty clear. Eh,
Mr. Peck? Diaz, the dead pigeon, and this guy McSweeney take it on the
lam from the big house. They sticks you up, then blow North and land
here. They're going to split, but McSweeney's a pig. He wants the works.
So what does he do? He croaks his pal." Ward cocked his head and
extended his hands, palms outward. "Okay?"

Mr. Peck scratched his chin thoughtfully.

"Well, fairly so," he answered without enthusiasm. "But before I say
_how_ clear, I'd like to see this McSweeney person."

A moment later a very sullen and defiant Mike McSweeney was ushered into
the room.

"Turn around slowly," Mr. Peck ordered.

The man sulked, but with a little persuasion, he finally did as he was
told.

"Now take your shoes off."

"Say, what is this, a racket?" the prisoner snarled.

"That will be all," Mr. Peck murmured after a hasty inspection of
McSweeney's feet. "You may return him to his cell. And unless you care
to have him prosecuted for his attempted robbery of the drug store, you
may just as well notify the Warden at San Quentin to come up and get
him. His list of crimes, I am sorry to say, Ward, does not include the
murder of Dominic Diaz."

"Why--why it's as plain as the nose on your face," Ward spluttered as
McSweeney was led from the room. "The cigar smelling currency...."

"You've tried hard," Mr. Peck interrupted, "very hard, in fact. Your
efforts are indeed commendable and I do say that your deductions are
plausible, but the fact remains that McSweeney is not the man we are
looking for."

"Well, couldn't have McSweeney poisoned him and then thrown his body on
the tracks?"

"He could have," Mr. Peck conceded, "but there would be no object in
attempting to conceal his method of killing his confederate. Besides he
is not mentally equipped to think of such things. Offhand, I'd say that
his I. Q. is that of an eight year old boy. Remember also, that we are
looking for a man--or possibly a woman--who has killed _several_ persons
within the past thirty days, using the same method; that of the
injection of xetholine caniopus. McSweeney couldn't have killed any of
the others, for the very simple reason that he has been behind bars up
to four days ago."

Mr. Peck raised his hand to silence Ward. "In addition, Mr. Ward, please
remember that I have a motor car full of foot print casts. Even in his
bare feet, which you saw with your own eyes, he'd overlap those prints a
half inch all around. That's why I had his shoes removed. Also, you
recall that the man who carried Diaz's body to the railroad tracks
possessed feet that pointed outward. McSweeney is decidedly pigeon
toed." Mr. Peck raised _his_ hands, palms upward, and then dropped them
to his chubby knees with a sharp slap. "Now how clear does your case
appear?"

Ward grunted and stared out of the window.

"On the other hand, Mr. Ward, as I before stated and now repeat, I can
put my finger on the murderer within ten minutes, should I care to."

"Who is it?"

"I'll tell you later. There are one or two points I must clear up before
I order the arrest. I'd like to drop in and have a talk with Doctor
Kraus first. I believe he can furnish what little information I
require."

       *       *       *       *       *

"This is Mr. Peck, Doctor Kraus," Ward said as the pair entered the
doctor's study ten minutes later.

"It's a pleasure," Mr. Peck conceded coolly. He drew a newspaper
clipping from his pocket and handed it to Doctor Kraus. "To settle an
argument, would you read this and give me your opinion?"

The doctor read the clipping through hastily.

"Why trepanning is nothing new," he scoffed. "The ancient Egyptians
practiced it successfully five thousand years ago. They...."

"Never mind," Mr. Peck interrupted sharply. "I don't care a rap if the
practice is new or old." He glanced sharply at Ward, who stood gaping in
astonishment, then back at the doctor. "The point is, Doctor Kraus, how
does it happen that you are able to read fine news print and yet, while
performing autopsies on nine different corpses, you missed the fact that
each of those persons had died from a shot of xetholine caniopus as was
clearly indicated by the red blotches on the face of each individual
victim?"

Doctor Kraus stiffened and stared at his inquisitor with cold precision.

"I'm afraid I don't quite follow you, Mr. Peck," he said smoothly.

"That likewise makes little difference. I also note that your toes point
out considerably more than the toes of the average person."

"Your remark, Mr. Peck, is not alone vague, but makes no sense; at least
not to me."

Ward intervened with a snort.

"You're crazy, Peck," he asserted heatedly. "I tell you I've known
Doctor Kraus all my life. I'll vouch for him. I...."

Mr. Peck silenced Ward with an impatient gesture. Then turning again to
Doctor Kraus, he said slowly and clearly, enunciating each word with
care and precision. "There has been a murder committed, Doctor Kraus. As
a matter of fact, there have been several murders, but I refer to one in
particular; that of one Dominic Diaz, an escaped convict. Diaz died from
xetholine caniopus poisoning. Later, his body was placed on the railroad
tracks to make it appear that he had been killed by a train and to
conceal the fact that he had been poisoned."

"Yes, I am aware of the incident," Doctor Kraus answered evenly. "I
performed the autopsy. But...."

"And you also murdered this man, Doctor Kraus!" Mr. Peck glared into the
doctor's eyes as he shot the accusation.

The old man sucked in a great breath and fell back a step and Ward saw,
to his deep consternation, that the kindly light that had shown in
Doctor Kraus's eyes for many a year, was no longer there.

"The tire marks that we found on the road near the scene of the train
accident, Doctor Kraus," Mr. Peck continued, "were made by your car. In
addition, Doctor Kraus, the poison was administered most carefully and
professionally with a hypodermic needle. Only a physician, or one
skilled in the use of such an instrument could so inject a poison as
delicate and as deadly as xetholine caniopus. Obviously, because of the
fact that you yourself were the autopsy surgeon, and because no other
person in the County is familiar with such matters, you estimated your
chances of detection as being extremely small. But...." Mr. Peck
hesitated for a split fraction of a second. "Drop that!" he shouted,
pouncing upon the aged physician and slapping a small glass vial from
his hand.

But his action was just an instant too late, for the next moment, the
old man slumped to the floor. Through eyes already dimmed by the instant
action of the deadly poison, he peered up at Ward.

"I--I'm sorry, Charlie," he breathed softly as Ward dropped to his side.
"After all these years, I--I've brought disgrace to--to our midst."

Ward, panic stricken and terrified, looked up at Mr. Peck, who stood
frowning down at the pair.

"There's nothing we can do, Ward," he said quietly. "Look closely. The
red blotches are already forming on his cheeks. Just hold him another
ten seconds."

Presently Ward settled the body of the old man back to the floor. Then
he rose and faced Mr. Peck.

"I can't believe it," he murmured, looking away. "I just can't believe
it. I can't see why he should have done it. There wasn't any reason for
it."

"Ah, but there was a reason for it," Mr. Peck asserted confidently.
"Through various channels, I discovered this morning that Doctor Kraus
was deeply involved financially. His circumstances were desperate. It
was vitally important that he raise two thousand dollars at once."

"But I can't see how his killing anybody could have brought him any
money. He...."

"You forget, Mr. Ward," Mr. Peck elucidated with a wry smile, "that
Doctor Kraus was not a permanent employee of the County. He was
retained, as needed, to perform an autopsy and preside at the inquest.
For these services, he was paid at the rate of one hundred dollars a
case. Twelve inquests at one hundred each, comes to twelve hundred
dollars; or at least it did when I studied mathematics as a small boy.
Now, Mr. Ward, is the motive clear?"

Ward nodded.

"The doctor needed eight hundred dollars more," Mr. Peck concluded. "But
for a strange set of circumstances which brought me here, you, Mr. Ward,
might have been his next victim."



DEATH IS DEAF

by CLIFF CAMPBELL

     Big Sid couldn't understand it, and he was a smart monkey. He had
     cased this job himself, personal. Had cooked up the scheme for
     pulling it off and spent a good two weeks laying the groundwork.
     Yet, here he was locked up in the county jail with the hot squat
     waiting to claim him.

[Illustration]


Big Sid couldn't understand it. And he was a smart monkey. He had cased
this job himself personal. Had cooked up the scheme for pulling it off.
Had spent a good two weeks laying the groundwork. Nobody yet had ever
called Big Sid Cloras a dummy either. Yet here he was locked up in their
tin-can of a jail, as good as a dead duck. He couldn't understand it.

It couldn't be. Not for him, Big Sid. Yet the bars of that cell door
were chrome steel, not papier mache. And those birds chatting down the
hall were local coppers with a couple of men from the County Homicide
Squad. And an escort of State Troopers were en route to take him over to
the real clink at the county seat. It couldn't happen to him, Big Sid.
But it had. And it was going to be for murder, maybe.

"Sid ... Sid," said Johnny the Itch almost reverently. He always
addressed Big Sid that way. He said, "Sid, I think maybe I got something
figured. But--but how did it happen, Sid?"

"Aw, shut up," said Big Sid with a disgusted glance over his thick
shoulder. He didn't bother really looking at him. Nobody much ever had
bothered looking at Johnny the Itch. He was one of those little
insignificant hangdog things with vacant eyes. Round-shouldered. The
kind they turn off the assembly line to hold up the fronts of pool
parlors. He had that twitching muscle in his right cheek. It made the
skin jerk and pull as if he were trying to get rid of an itch without
using his hand. He could do one thing. He could tool a heap like a
maniacal genius born with a steering wheel in his hands.

"Shut up," Big Sid grunted his way again and walked past the bowl in the
corner of the cell. He was trying to figure this out. He stood there
winding the tail of his necktie around a big finger.

Johnny the Itch pulled nervously at the wide-brimmed fedora jerked down
on his bony skull. "But, Sid, I think I got a way to--"

Big Sid turned around, spat out his cigaret, heeled it into the
concrete. He didn't take his eyes off Johnny the Itch for a long moment.
They were big muddy eyes, protruding. When Big Sid looked at you that
way, a guy felt he was being measured for a casket. Big Sid could haul
off and belt your teeth down your throat with those tremendous arms of
his. And those eyes would never change.

He really wasn't a tall or unusually large man, Big Sid. But he was
solid beef. That big belly that filled out a double-breasted drum-tight.
The massive shoulders that started minus courtesy of neck from right
beneath his double chin. The big, wide-nostrilled nose that gave him a
certain kind of heavy dignity. He exuded bigness.

Johnny the Itch fingered away sweat that rolled down from under his
fedora and nodded obediently. He felt of the fedora gingerly as Big Sid
turned away. Big Sid was thinking and had to be let alone. When Big Sid
thought, it was real important. Later, he'd tell him.

Big Sid sweated and listened to the buzz of voices from down the
corridor and tried not to believe he might have signed his own death
warrant. He put his hands on his broad hips, ignoring the bandaged wrist
where that copper's bullet had got him. He went back to the beginning.

It had been such a sweet set-up. This dinky little whistle-stop of a
town. Duffyville. Over near the southwestern border of the state. With
its single bank, the Duffyville National. And that motor parts plant on
the outskirts with its heavy back-log of defense orders that had
compelled a doubling of its help. A consequent raise in its payroll,
too. And that payroll moved through the bank, naturally. Just a little
matter of something over $21,000 each week.

"It's a shame to take it," he, Big Sid, had said in the beginning. Then
he had cased it thoroughly. And he had moved into town, openly and
aboveboard. Registered at the little hotel as one "Samuel Norris." Big
front with plenty of credentials and a neat black mustache which could
be shaved off easily enough later. Then he had walked right into that
bank and identified himself. Even opened up a small checking account.
"Just for ready cash, of course."

That was the way he did things. Cool and nervy. Always thinking,
thinking ahead. He was a smart guy. Sure maybe you could grab that dough
by blasting your way with the heaters plenty. But that kind of stuff
only made you hot as hell, afterward. You had to keep lamming and maybe
you never got a chance to enjoy it. Big Sid wasn't dumb like that.

His way, it had been a cinch to get the whole layout. How the payroll
cash was brought from up the line in an armored car to the bank before
opening time in the morning. And the company guards came down and picked
it up immediately after lunch for their auditing department. After
lunch!

He had put his finger on that weak spot almost from the start. The quiet
lunch-hour in a sleepy little town. When two of the tellers and the bank
officers went home to eat the way they did in those hick burgs. That was
the time for the snatch.

And even that was not to be done crudely. Not Big Sid's way. He was
pretty well known in the Duffyville National by then. Been dropping in
to confer with the vice-president about the local real estate situation.
It was so simple. A few hints dropped about the possible establishment
of a new branch plant ... of course, a man wasn't always free to mention
in advance whom he represented. And they'd have to get definite word
about the extension of a railroad siding for the lading purposes, too.

Oh, it went over big. He knew how they did things in that bank. And he
made them feel they knew him. Which was very important. Especially that
teller down at the end window, Eckland. The one who stayed when the
others went out to eat at the noon hour. Eckland was sort of good
looking in a weak blond way. He studied accounting at night. "Samuel
Norris" said he might know of an opening for a bright young fellow
there. When he came up to the city, they'd have to get together. Least
he could do would be to show him around the hot spots some night. That
always made Eckland flush some; you could see he was the type who
dreamed of himself as a glamor boy, a killer-diller with the dames.

And there was that fallen-arched Paddy who was the guard. Nice and
simple. An occasional cigar, a friendly slap on the back, did for him.

So there she was. Perfect. The clincher was to get away without firing a
shot. Before there was a warning. No shooting and they would be miles
away before they stopped rubbing their eyes in that one water-tank burg.
Probably wouldn't have figured out exactly what had happened until some
time Saturday. The payroll came in on Friday.

They scoured every main artery and side road and cart track for miles in
every direction, he and Johnny the Itch. They figured on cutoffs in case
of a chase and how they could double in their tracks. And the pass over
the mountain ridge that would take them across the state line. And about
forty miles down the line, on that abandoned farm, they located the old
barn where they would switch cars. They would hide the second heap in
the barn. Williams would take care of that. He was the trigger man.
Sonny Williams, cool as ice behind the business end of a Tommy gun.

Now, Sonny Williams was--

"Sid," Johnny the Itch said, watching the cell door nervously. He
couldn't keep the whimper out of his voice now. "Sid, time's getting
short. I--I think I got a way, a chance for us anyways. I got
something--" His whisper cracked and he made a faint gesture toward his
fedora as if he feared the walls had eyes as well as ears.

He was scared as hell. It made Big Sid sick. The little rat didn't have
anything to be scared about. Not like he did. He glared at him. "I'm
thinking," he warned heavily.

Johnny the Itch nodded so his under jaw jiggled. When a phone jangled
down the corridor, his eyes bugged right at the door. Then he couldn't
stand it any longer. "Look, Sid, how did it happen? You're smart. You
figured it all out and--" He half choked and had to dredge his voice up
out of his throat again. He took his hat carefully by both hands. "Look,
Sid, I got--"

Big Sid took him by a bony shoulder and threw him. Back over the lower
bunk of the cell. Johnny's head bounced off the wall. One of the town
flatfoots came down and stared in, chewing gum methodically. He gave
barely a glance to Johnny the Itch. The latter crouched there, frozen,
hanging onto his hat as if it were a hunk of dynamite.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lighting a fresh cigaret, Big Sid paid no attention to the copper. He
was thinking what to do. He pulled at a vest button and picked up the
thread again. She had been all set. He had given the office to Sonny
Williams. Williams had planted the second heap at the old barn and they
had picked him up and rolled into Duffyville. Right on the nose. At
12.08 according to his wrist watch. Dropped off Williams on that
residential street around the corner from the bank.

Swung around the block. The timing was perfection. He, Big Sid, went up
the bank steps as Williams came along less than ten yards away. Williams
with that long bundle under his arm that looked like a florist's box.
The sub-machine gun was in that box.

A local tradesman was just leaving the bank, nodded to "Mr. Norris."
Then he, Big Sid, was over dropping his left hand on that guard's arm,
asking affably for the vice-president. He had left for lunch, of course.
And Sid slid the automatic from his side pocket and tucked it in the
guard's side.

"This is a stick-up, stupid.... Keep your pants on an' don't try to be a
hero. Now, pass me through!"

The guard's lips fell loosely away from his plates. He twisted his eyes
over toward Williams. Williams was at a desk, the florist box lying in
front of him, scribbling on a deposit slip. But Williams knew what was
going on. The guard nodded his head on the fear-stiffened hinge of his
neck and looked down at Eckland in the far cage, the only teller on now.
The guard pointed toward the electrically controled door in the teller
cage partition that cut off the offices and vault from the customers'
side.

Eckland was looking down, smiling at "Mr. Norris." Eckland nodded. He
pressed a button in his cage. The door down the line clicked. And he,
Big Sid, was through, inside. It went smooth as grease.

Williams was over, the Tommy gun out. Had herded the guard into a corner
where he was hidden from the teller as well as any passersby. Behind the
partition, he, Big Sid, wasted only a single glance at the open vault.
That would have been the stupid move. He was too smart for that. He
moved swiftly down behind the empty cages toward Eckland's, walking on
his toes. His left foot hit a discarded paper bill binder and it
crackled and he pulled away from it so he struck one of those adding
machines on a portable carriage. It jolted and rattled loudly. But
Eckland did not look around.

Then he was right behind him. Had the automatic snout poking through the
steel grille of the rear of the cage. Square at Eckland's back. Smack at
the belt of his pinchback coat. "This is a stick-up, Eckland," he said
quietly. "Don't try to be a hero--or I'll blow you outa your shoes!"

There was no sign from Eckland. He stood motionless, writing hand poised
over a voucher.

"Now you're showing sense," he congratulated Eckland. "Now back up easy
and unhook this--"

There was a low whistle. That would be Williams. It meant a depositor
had come in. Williams had moved around to cover him with the Tommy gun.
And that meant Eckland could see him and the gun now. Eckland's jaw
unhinged and the pencil slid from his limp hand and fell to the floor.
He peered forward, making gagging sounds.

"I told you this was a stick-up," he, Big Sid, told him, speaking louder
now. "I got a gun on your back! Make a move for that alarm and I'll give
it to you! I'm not fooling, Eckland!"

There was a long second ticking off into eternity. That Eckland almost
acted as if he didn't hear. His head never even started to twitch toward
the rear. One of his hands clawed at the counter in front of him. Then
he was moving. His right leg. Shakily but purposefully. Toward that
pedal that sounded the hold-up alarm, flashing it right to local police
headquarters.

"Eckland, I'll kill--" But Eckland's foot never halted. And he, Big
Sid, let him have it in the back. Twice point-blank.

But even as he tumbled, buckling forward in the middle, twisting with
agony, Eckland's foot found the pedal, punched it. The damage was done.
The bank resounded with the strident clamor of the gong. And Big Sid
knew its twin was galvanizing them down at police headquarters.

He ran for it. Was moving even before the teller's slumping body hit the
floor. Got through the partition door; he had even thought to block the
snap-lock with a paper wad. Williams was out, going down the steps. The
Tommy began to chatter. Then it was clattering down on the sidewalk,
Williams crumpling over it with two slugs in his body. That cop coming
out of the hardware store down the block happened to be a crack shot.

He, Big Sid, had sent him scurrying back with one well-aimed slug
though. Then headed for the car parked down beyond the "No Parking" zone
directly in front of the bank. He always believed in keeping the law
when nothing was to be gained in breaking it. He was smart that way.

It was the cop running from across the street who got him in the wrist
and made him lose the automatic. A lucky shot. Still, he might have made
it. He got the car between them. He was almost at it, lunging for that
open front door on the curb side. Johnny the Itch was quaking in there
behind the wheel, hands up at his ears, yapping, "Cripes, I give up--I
give up!"

Big Sid had always known how yellow Johnny was. That didn't bother him.
He could take care of him when he got inside, got to that stubby .38 he
had slipped into the glove compartment just in case. But he never got to
it. That police car, roaring up from behind, siren a-scream, smashed
into the tail end of their job. Jolted it ahead savagely. And with one
foot on the running board, he was slammed to the ground hard, rolling
his head against a tree. Then they had him. Him and Johnny the Itch.
Only Johnny didn't count.

       *       *       *       *       *

Big Sid shook his head. He still couldn't figure how it had happened. It
was crazy, that guy, Eckland, committing suicide like that. Something
had gone wrong but--

Johnny the Itch crept closer across the cell to Big Sid, shooting
nervous glances toward the door. He admired Big Sid tremendously. Big
Sid was so plenty smart, not a dumb cluck like him. He didn't blame Big
Sid for what had happened. It _couldn't_ be his fault; Big Sid never
made a mistake. He could think.

Maybe he had figured out what had gone wrong by now. He would ask him,
then tell him what he had. It was dangerous to interrupt him when he was
thinking. But time was growing short. And then when he knew, Big Sid
would figure out a way to use it. Johnny put a hand to his jammed-down
hat and spoke.

"Sid, you got it figured how we was double-crossed maybe? What slipped?
I know _you_ figured it right." His voice squeaked out of his throat.
"But--Sid, I got something you can figure on now, maybe. I got--"

Big Sid whirled on him, one of his heavy hands sweeping. He batted
Johnny the Itch's fedora onto the side of his head. Johnny clutched at
it as if it might be a life preserver. He started: "Sid, I got a--"

One of the County Homicide men came to the cell door. He plucked the
cold cigar from his mouth and nodded at Big Sid. "You're lucky, pal. The
hospital says Eckland the teller will pull through. If he hadn't, it
would have been first degree and the hot squat for you."

Big Sid sneered. "Ah-h, that dumbhead, Eckland! He wanted to be a hero.
He was asking for it!" He spat disgustedly onto the floor. "If he'd had
any sense, he wouldn't have gone for the alarm. I told him I had a gun
in his back!"

The Homicide man shook his head. "He never heard you."

"But I was only two feet away! I told him twice an'--"

"Eckland was stone deaf, chum," the Homicide man said.

Big Sid's lips curled. As if somebody had tried to tell him a fairy
story. "Why, I talked to that chump many a time! I--"

The Homicide man agreed on that one. "Yeah, facing him. So he could look
at you--and your lips. Eckland was a lip-reader. And--he was stone deaf,
Cloras."

Big Sid swayed. He might have pulled it off if that guy hadn't been
deaf. Could have. He swore, raking his hair savagely. "I never figured
on that! I never figured--"

"_You_--you never figured that?" Johnny the Itch was on his feet when he
screamed. His splinter of jaw jerked out fiercely. "You--Big Sid--the
smart guy! You never figured--you--you was dumb?"

But he couldn't seem to believe it. Then--he did.

He jerked off his fedora, grabbing inside it. He came out with the
stubby .38 from the glove compartment. He had been able to slip it out
in the excitement after the capture. Nobody ever paid much attention to
Johnny the Itch. Any more than they had thought to look under his hat
when they searched him.

He said it again to Big Sid. "You was dumb." Then he just kept
triggering until the gun was emptied and he had put five slugs fatally
into Big Sid's carcass.



THREE GUESSES

by DAVID GOODIS

     Detective Frey came in and saw Duggin lying dead, and he figured
     he'd go out and do big things. He went out and threw his weight
     around. Doing big things? You figure that one out!

[Illustration]


It was one of those white stone places up in the east seventies. Plenty
of class, Frey thought as he walked up the steps. He turned and looked
at the guy waiting in the car. He shrugged, and the guy shrugged back.

Frey was in his early thirties. He was five eight and he weighed 170 and
it was packed in like steel. He was a private dick and he was reckless.
It showed in his grey eyes and the glint in his carelessly combed light
brown hair and the set of his jawline. It showed in the thin grin of his
lips.

His lips grinned like that as the door opened. A servant, a Jap.

"Yes, please?"

"I'd like to see Miss Rillette."

"She busy."

"Not too busy to see me," Frey said. "I'm coming in."

Japs are either very tough or they are very timid, and the servant was
of the latter stamp. He stepped aside and Frey walked through a pale
orange room, then through a burnt orange room and then into another pale
orange room.

"Nice place you've got here, Miss Rillette," Frey said.

She was small and slim and even in the frock of a sculptress she looked
delicate and graceful. In one hand she held a chisel. In the other she
held a mallet. She was working on a chunk of marble and she had the
forehead and general scalp contours almost completed.

When she turned around she showed a good looking set of features. She
had dark brown hair coming in bangs to the eyebrows, and her eyes were
gold-hazel. Her mouth was a little too wide, but still she was a good
looking girl. She was in her late twenties.

"Just who are you and what is the meaning of this?" she said.

"My name is Frey, and I'm a friend of Harry Duggin."

"Is that so?" she said. "How is Harry?"

"He's dead."

She blinked a few times and then she said, "What happened--and when?"

Frey said, "He was murdered--this morning. Knifed."

She blinked a few more times and then she looked at the floor for a few
seconds. Frey was watching her and then he was glancing sideways to a
little jade box that held cigarettes. He took one up, eased a stray
safety match from his vest pocket, flicked it with his fingernail, and
lit up.

He took a few deep drags and said, "I got an idea that you know
something, Miss Rillette."

Her face showed no emotion as she said, "I thought you said you were a
friend of Harry's. You sound more like a detective."

"That's right. Harry was a good friend of mine. We went to law school
together. He became a successful corporation lawyer and I starved for a
while and then I became a private detective. I lost touch with Harry for
a year or so and then last week he called me up and asked me to do a
favor for him. He asked me to follow you."

She said, "Indeed?"

"That's right. He must have been looking around for a private dick and
then he found out that I was in business and he asked me to follow you.
He said that in return for the favor he would give me one hundred and
fifty bucks. So you see, Miss Rillette, I have nothing against you
personally. I just have to make a living, that's all."

"Why did he want you to follow me?"

"You don't have to ask me that, Miss Rillette. You know the answer. In
fact, you know all the answers. I found that out through seven days of
following you."

She blinked some more and then she reached out to the little jade box
and took a cigarette. Frey flicked one of his safety matches with his
fingernail and gave her a light.

"What am I supposed to say?" she murmured.

He knew he was going to have trouble with this girl.

"You don't have to say anything. I'll write out a confession outline and
you sign it. If you want to, you can fill all the gaps. But what I want
most is a signed confession--"

"What did you say you were?" she murmured.

"A private detective."

"Beginner, aren't you?"

That made him sort of sore. But he swallowed it and said, "Maybe, but
I'm not an amateur. I make a living out of this."

She blinked and dragged half-heartedly at the cigarette and then she
turned and looked at the marble she was doing. She looked back at Frey
and her eyes were tired as she said, "How close did you follow me?"

"Here's what you did," Frey said. "On Sunday you attended an exhibition
at the Wheye Galleries, up on 57th Street. From there you went to
Larry's, in the Village, where you had a dinner engagement with a man
named Lasseroe. From there this guy took you to a party at the
Vanderbilt. He went home alone. You stayed at the Vanderbilt. You stayed
there for five days, with your very good friend, Daisy Hennifer, the
jewelry designer. You had a few luncheon and dinner engagements with
Lasseroe. You went to a few shops with Daisy. Then early last night you
left the Vanderbilt and I lost you in Fifth Avenue traffic. I went back
to tell Harry about it and to get your home address, because in all the
days I'd been following you--well, you didn't once touch home. When I
got to Harry's apartment, his valet informed me that Harry was out for
the evening."

"That's as far as you got?"

"Hardly. I went to Harry's apartment again this morning. The valet came
to the door and told me that Mr. Duggin was sleeping. I explained that
it was certainly most important and I went in. But I couldn't wake
Harry up, because he was dead. I don't know why I'm telling you all
this. You know it already."

"How did you get my home address?" She was still blinking a lot, but she
wasn't excited.

"The valet gave it to me."

"You told him--?"

"I didn't tell him anything. I came out of the bedroom and told him that
Mr. Duggin was still sleeping. Then I asked him for your address. Maybe
he still thinks that Harry is asleep. Or maybe he's found out already
and the police are in on the case."

She looked at the ceiling and then she looked at the floor and then she
looked at Frey and said, "Now let me understand this. You say that I
murdered Harry. You want me to sign a confession."

"That's all there is to it," he said.

"You're going to place yourself in a lot of difficulty, Mr. Frey," she
murmured. "I advise that you give this matter a little more thought
before you accuse anyone else--"

"I'm not accusing anyone else," Frey said. "What are you going to do?"

She blinked and then she looked at her wrist watch and then she looked
at the marble. "I have a lot of work to finish before three thirty this
afternoon," she said. "Please go now."

She turned, took up her mallet and chisel, and started to work on the
marble. She acted as if Frey had already walked out of the pale orange
room.

He shrugged and walked out.

The Jap servant followed him to the door. He said to the Jap, "Tell Miss
Rillette that I'll be back--after three thirty."

He walked down the steps and stepped into the parked coupe.

He turned the key in the ignition lock and said, "No go."

"What happened?" this other guy said. This other guy was Mogin. He was
about as tall as Frey and he weighed a little over 200 pounds. He had
close-cropped blond hair and pretty blue eyes and he was a very tough
boy.

"She don't know from nothing," Frey said. He took the car around the
corner and stepped on the gas.

"What do we do now?" Mogin said.

"Well, we could go to a double feature and kill the afternoon that way.
Or we could go up and visit this Lasseroe."

Mogin shrugged.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a new apartment house near Morningside Heights. It was elegant
and smooth and important.

"Do I wait?" Mogin said.

"Maybe you better come in with me."

They went in and rang Lasseroe's number and he must have been expecting
somebody because he buzzed an answer right away and the door opened.
When Frey and Mogin stepped out of the elevator, Lasseroe was standing
at the door of his apartment and when he saw them he expected them to
walk right by. But they came up to him.

He was a man of medium height and he had a good build for a man of
forty-five. He had a square, rigid-boned face, and deep-set dark grey
eyes, and a good head of black hair threaded with silver. He was wearing
a long collared silk shirt and an expensive cravat and an expensive silk
lounging robe.

"Hello, Lasseroe," Frey said.

"I beg your pardon--"

"You don't have to beg anybody's pardon," Frey said. "All you have to do
is answer a few questions. If you don't mind we won't waste time out
here in the hall. We'll go into your room and talk."

"I presume you are thieves?" Lasseroe said. He wasn't excited.

"No, we ain't thieves and we don't like funny boys," Mogin said.

Lasseroe walked into the apartment and Frey and Mogin followed.

"Now, gentlemen?"

"My name is Frey. This is my assistant, Mr. Mogin."

Lasseroe ignored Mogin. He said, "What do you want with me?"

Frey began to talk. He didn't look at Lasseroe. He looked out the window
and talked slowly, taking his time. He said, "You got a nice business,
Mr. Lasseroe. You are an expert appraiser of art, and you take good fees
from various dealers. Sometimes you hit healthy money. You check up on a
Rembrandt and you give your okay to a buyer and the dealer gives you a
sweet kick-back. It is all very legitimate and lucrative--"

"What are you, a census taker?" Lasseroe said.

"Quiet," Mogin toned.

"A short time ago you figured out a few new angles," Frey said. "You
weren't doing so good on the old stuff and you reasoned that you might
be able to make up for the deficiency by a few transactions with the
modern boys and girls."

"Just what do you mean by--"

"Quiet," Mogin toned.

"So here's what you did," Frey said. "You rounded up several of the more
snooty painters and sculptors--the artistic boys and girls who have a
lot of dough because their parents or some uncle or somebody had a lot
of dough. You told the suckers that you'd boost their work in return for
tribute. Then you went to the dealers and told them that you had several
sensational new artists whose work would bring high prices. You'd give
that work a big build-up in return for the kick-backs. It worked."

"Now just a moment--"

"Quiet," Mogin toned.

"Everybody was happy," Frey said, "because nobody really lost out. The
artists made dough and the dealers made dough and the customers thought
they were getting high class stuff. One of these customers was Harry
Duggin, the successful corporation lawyer."

Lasseroe opened his mouth to say something. Then he closed it and looked
at Frey and looked at Mogin and looked at Frey again.

"You sold Duggin a few pieces of sculpture done by a girl named Tess
Rillette," Frey said. "Duggin liked the sculpture and he wanted to meet
the girl. You introduced him to Tess and he went crazy. He worshipped
her. He asked her to marry him. She thought it was funny and she told
you about it. You didn't think it was funny. You saw a new dodge--"

"Now damn you--"

"Quiet," Mogin toned.

"Duggin was out of his head because of Tess Rillette. And of course he
bought up every piece of sculpture that Tess turned out. This sort of
thing went on for more than a year, and Harry didn't know that sculpture
takes a long time and a high-class artist can turn out so many pieces
and no more in a certain period. In other words, Harry didn't stop to
figure that you were selling him stuff that Tess Rillette had nothing to
do with. That is--he didn't stop to figure about it until he found out
that Tess had fallen for you."

"Now you look here--"

"Quiet," Mogin toned.

"Harry could be clever when he wanted to be, and he was always clever
when he was good and burned up. He checked up on that stuff you sold
him, found out that it was phoney. He got in touch with you, told you
that you were slated for jail--but that you could snake your way out of
it--by giving up those happy little plans for yourself and Tess
Rillette. By that time, you were serious about Tess and you wouldn't
give her up for anything. So you went and murdered Harry Duggin."

"What?"

"I said--you murdered Harry Duggin."

Lasseroe stared at the lavender rug. He raised his eyes and said, "Is
Harry--dead?"

Frey reached in his pocket and pulled out a safety match and flicked it
with his fingernail. Then he remembered he had no cigarette in his mouth
and he reached out and Mogin took out a pack and gave him one. He lit
the cigarette and he said, "I'm a detective, Lasseroe. I'd like you to
tell me how you did it."

"I didn't do it."

"No?" Frey looked at Mogin. Mogin shrugged.

"No, I didn't do it," Lasseroe said. "Let me see your badge."

"I don't have a badge. I'm a private detective."

Lasseroe said, "I've a good mind to call the police."

"You don't have to call them," Fry said. "They'll be here soon anyway."
He walked to the door. Mogin followed.

Lasseroe stood there in the center of the lavender rug. He said, "You
gentlemen have wasted your time."

"Quiet," Mogin toned.

In the elevator Frey said, "Maybe we can still make that double
feature."

"I'm getting hungry," Mogin said. "How about some lunch?"

Frey parted his lips and the cigarette fell from his mouth. He stepped
on the stub and said, "We'll have lunch and then we'll visit another
party."

"No double feature?" Mogin said.

"No double feature. We'll visit this third party and if we strike out
we'd better leave town for a few days to avoid a lot of aggravation. See
what I mean?"

"I see what you mean," Mogin said. "Who do we see now?"

"We see Daisy Hennifer, the jewelry designer," Frey said. "We go to the
Vanderbilt Hotel."

       *       *       *       *       *

They faked a story that they were representatives of a big Manhattan
lapidary. That got them up to Daisy Hennifer's suite. It was topaz
yellow, ceiling, walls, rugs and furniture--all topaz yellow. Daisy had
on a topaz yellow gown and she had topaz yellow hair.

"You won't be able to stay long, gentlemen," she said. "I've a cocktail
engagement at hof post threh--"

"What's that again?" Mogin said.

"Skip it," Frey said.

Daisy was frowning.

"What did you do last night, Miss Hennifer?" Frey said.

Her topaz eyes started to glow and she said, "Just what do you mean by
coming up here and--"

"Don't get excited, Miss Hennifer. We're just doing our job, that's
all."

"But you said you were--"

"No, we don't represent a lapidary. We're just up here to ask you a few
questions, that's all."

"You're not police--" She was wearing four rings and she was twisting
them about her fingers. They were all big yellow topaz stones.

"Not exactly--" Frey said.

"Well then--"

"Do you know Harry Duggin?" Frey said.

"Why--yes. In fact, I was to see him this afternoon--"

"You won't see him, Miss Hennifer," Frey said. "He was murdered this
morning."

"Oh--"

"He was a fine sort, Miss Hennifer. You shouldn't have done it."

"Done what?"

"Killed him."

She was twisting the topaz rings. They circled fast about her long
fingers, the nails of which held topaz yellow polish.

"You've been friends with Harry for a long time, Miss Hennifer," Frey
said. "As far as you were concerned, it was more than friendship. You
went for Harry. But he wasn't serious. And he finally gave you up
altogether because he was getting big ideas concerning Tess Rillette.
You hated Tess. You had known her for some time and you had paid no
particular attention to her, except to laugh behind her back. You looked
upon her as a girl with a lot of money and no brains and no real ability
as a sculptress. When you saw her at teas and parties you just saw her,
that was all. But when Harry fell for her, you had to pay attention, and
you hated her. You--"

"How do you know this? Who are you? What--?"

"Please be quiet and listen," Mogin droned.

"It was sort of natural that you should begin to cultivate this Tess
Rillette's friendship. You wanted to talk to her about Harry. You wanted
to find out just how much she cared for the guy. And then you found out
that she didn't go for him at all. She adored another man. That made you
hate Harry. But at the same time you still weren't giving up hope. You
went to Harry, told him that Tess Rillette was after another man. You
begged him to marry you. But instead of helping the situation, your
visit made things worse. Harry began to look into the matter. He found
out about Tess and this man Lasseroe. He wanted to make doubly sure. He
was worried about a lot of things. He had a private investigator follow
Tess around during this past week."

Mogin threw a cigarette. Frey caught it and flicked a safety match with
his fingernail.

Daisy Hennifer was saying, "All this--it's--I don't know what to think.
I don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything," Frey said. "Just write me a confession
note, that's all. Just write out the confession and sign it and you
won't have to say anything."

"But--but--"

"It was convenient for you, Miss Hennifer. Lasseroe had a good motive
for killing Duggin. So did Tess Rillette. At first she was indifferent
to Harry. And after he threatened to have Lasseroe jailed, she hated
him. But your feelings were even stronger. It was your kind of hate that
turned to murder."

"You're wrong," she said. She was excited. "I didn't do it."

"A confession will get you off easy."

"I'm not signing any confession," she said. "I didn't do it. I had
nothing to do with it. I adored Harry. I--"

"You'll save yourself a lot of misery--"

She started to sob. "I didn't do it. I--"

Frey looked at Mogin. The short, heavy guy shrugged.

"Is that all, Miss Hennifer?" Frey asked.

"That's all I've got to say." She stopped sobbing. Her topaz eyes were
dull now. "Are you going to take me away?"

Frey shook his head. "We can't take you away. We're not cops."

She stared. "Then--what are you?"

Frey shrugged. "Maybe we're just a couple of damn fools."

He nodded to Mogin. They went out of Daisy Hennifer's suite.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were walking toward the coupe. Mogin was saying, "It's almost
three."

"We'll have something to eat and we'll go back and sit in the coupe and
wait a while," Frey said. He put his hand in his change pocket and took
out two half dollars, three quarters, six dimes, four nickels. "We'll
eat a classy lunch on this," he said. "Then we'll wait around for a
little while and we'll see where Daisy Hennifer goes."

"It's all right with me," Mogin said: "Anything's all right with me--as
long as we eat."

They lunched at the hotel and then they walked out to the lobby and sat
down and smoked. At twenty past three, Daisy Hennifer walked through the
lobby and Frey and Mogin took their time and followed her.

A cab was waiting at the curb and Daisy got in.

The coupe followed.

Up Fourth avenue and two turns to blade through heavy uptown traffic and
then down the street where Tess Rillette lived. The cab stopped outside
the white stone house and Daisy got out.

The coupe went once around the block and then Frey parked it at the
corner.

"This looks good," he said.

Mogin nodded.

Frey said, "Maybe you better wait here. If I'm not out in thirty minutes
maybe you better come in and see what's happened to me."

Mogin said, "Maybe you better take this." He reached in his coat pocket
and pulled out a little pistol. Frey looked at it and made a face.

"I hate to use those things."

He took the pistol and put it in his pocket and walked up the white
stone steps. The Jap came to the door and Frey said, "Well--it's past
three thirty. Miss Rillette is expecting me, isn't she--?"

The Jap shook his head. "Miss Rillette is busy. You must call later."

"Tell Miss Rillette that I--" He braked his tongue and said, "No--don't
tell Miss Rillette anything. In fact--maybe you better take a walk
around the block."

The Jap started to get excited. He said, "You were not among those
invited--"

"Take a walk around the block," Frey said. "Look, I'll help you down the
steps--" He grabbed hold of the Jap and hustled him down the steps.
Mogin saw the deal and opened the door of the coupe. Frey pushed the Jap
inside.

"What's this?" Mogin said.

"A glimpse of the Far East," Frey murmured. "Take him to a show. Take
him to a dance. I don't care what you do with him, only keep him away
from the house for a while. He'll get in my way otherwise."

The Jap started to yell.

"Tag him," Frey said. He looked up and down the street and he saw that
it was all right. Then he heard a click and he saw Mogin's fist bouncing
away from the Jap's chin. The Jap went to sleep.

"I'll drive around the block a few times," Mogin said.

Frey went up the steps again and took his time going through the pale
orange room, the burnt orange room. Then he was moving slowly and very
quietly as he heard voices coming from the other pale orange room. The
orange door was closed but Frey managed to get in a look through the
side windows of the studio. The windows were slits of glass running from
the floor to the ceiling, and through them Frey saw Tess Rillette and
Lasseroe and Daisy Hennifer.

They were all talking at once and at first their voices were low but
then they started to argue and Frey got in on it.

"Clever, weren't you, Daisy?" Tess Rillette was saying. "You asked me to
be your guest at the hotel, and I thought it was hospitality. But what
you really wanted was to keep me away from here. You didn't want Harry
to get in touch with me."

"That's a lie," Daisy said. "I asked you to stay at the hotel purely for
business reasons. I wanted you to work on those inlaid ivories--"

"That's what I thought--at first," Tess Rillette said. "But I know the
truth now. You wanted to keep me away from Harry. You thought maybe you
had one last chance of winning him back. And when you found out it was
futile--you killed him!"

"She's right, Daisy," Lasseroe said. "You killed Harry Duggin. You
worshipped him--and hated him!"

He got out of the chair and pointed at her, and a few glasses on a
cocktail tray tipped over.

Daisy was shouting, "You're both lying! You're trying to place the blame
on me and switch things around so that I'll be put out of the way.
You're trying to commit--double murder!"

"Just what do you mean by that?" Lasseroe said.

Daisy's voice was lowered as she stared at the art appraiser and said,
"You killed him. You had every reason to kill him, and you did it. And
now you're trying to get me out of the way. I know the truth about you,
Lasseroe. I know how you've been swindling art patrons, charging them
exorbitant prices for cheap junk such as Tess puts out--"

Tess Rillette wasn't taking this sitting down. She started to call Daisy
a lot of nasty names. It was all very unpleasant.

And then Lasseroe said, "You've got a lot of influence around this town,
haven't you, Daisy?"

She liked that. She nodded. And there was a mean smile on her lips.
Lasseroe was moving slowly toward her, and his face was pale. There was
a light in the man's eyes that told Frey a lot of things. Frey reached
into his coat pocket and touched the revolver to make sure that it was
still there.

"You've got a lot of mouth, too," Lasseroe was saying.

"Just what do you mean by that?" Daisy looked at him straight.

"You may turn out to be quite an annoyance," Lasseroe said. He kept
moving toward her.

Tess Rillette was grabbing Lasseroe's arm, saying, "Please--enough has
already happened--"

But Lasseroe was excited and he was pushing Tess Rillette away and then
he was making a grab for Daisy. She fell backward and he went over with
her and he got his fingers around her throat. She managed to scream once
and then she started to gurgle. Frey opened the door and took out his
revolver and pointed it at Lasseroe's spine.

"All right," he said, "Let's stop playing."

But Lasseroe was out of control now and he was choking the life out of
Daisy Hennifer. He didn't seem to hear Frey, and he increased the
pressure of his fingers around Daisy's windpipe. Tess Rillette was
screaming and putting herself between Frey and Lasseroe, in an
ungraceful try at the old martyr act.

Frey knew that he couldn't stand on ceremony. He had to break it up and
break it up fast. He pushed Tess Rillette and she didn't like being
pushed. She was screaming now, and she threw fingernails at his face. He
let her have a slow right to the jaw and it sent her across the room,
spinning.

Then he had a try at Lasseroe.

He tried to pull Lasseroe away from Daisy Hennifer, who by now was in a
very bad way. But Lasseroe was a maniac now and he wanted to take the
life away from the jewelry designer. Frey knew that he would have to use
the revolver. He lifted it and then allowed the butt to come down and
make contact with Lasseroe's skull.

Lasseroe went to sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We'll take them all down to Harry's apartment," Frey said. "If the cops
aren't there already, it'll be a good idea to finish the case right on
the spot where it started."

"That's a very good idea," Mogin said. "I have a hunch that this will
put us on the map."

Frey nodded. He prodded Lasseroe with the revolver and said, "You and
Miss Rillette will sit in the opera seats with me. Miss Hennifer will
ride in front." He touched the shivering Jap on the elbow and said, "The
studio is in quite a bad state. Better go in there and rearrange things.
If you have any questions to ask Miss Rillette, maybe you better call
the police station. That'll be her temporary address before she goes
away on a long trip."

He stepped into the coupe and closed the door. Lasseroe was manacled to
him and Miss Rillette was manacled to Lasseroe. Daisy was still groaning
as Mogin put the car in first and sent it whizzing down the street.

"You're making a big mistake," Lasseroe said.

"I wouldn't talk about making mistakes if I were you," Frey said
lightly. He felt very good. All a private investigator needed was one
good break like this, and he was made. The cases would come in thick and
fast, and so would the dough. Frey smiled.

Tess Rillette was saying, "I told you, Mr. Frey--you were letting
yourself in for a lot of difficulty, and--"

"Do I turn here?" Mogin was saying.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were a few police cars in front of the high-class apartment where
Harry Duggin had lived, and where he had died. The coupe parked across
the street and Frey saw the crowd and the reporters. He said, "All
right--here we go."

Everyone was looking and murmuring as the five of them went into the
apartment house. A cop walked over and said, "What's this?"

"It's the Harry Duggin case," Frey said.

They stepped into the elevator and went up seven floors to the
apartment. There were a lot of cops up there, a lot of plain clothes men
and lads from the homicide bureau. Reporters and photographers and a
doctor.

"What's this?" a plain clothes man said.

"It's the Harry Duggin case," Frey said.

The mob crowded around. This little deal was taking place in the living
room of the apartment. The dick was saying, "Carven is in the bedroom.
He's talking to Duggin's valet." He frowned at Frey and said, "What have
you got?"

"Enough," Frey said. He pointed to Lasseroe. "Here's your baby. I'm
going in and talk to Carven."

As he started for the bedroom door he heard Lasseroe saying, "You're
making a big mistake--"

Frey smiled.

He went into the bedroom and he saw Carven, the big shot detective. He
saw the two cops in there and he saw the valet, and then the corpse of
Harry Duggin. Carven had the valet by the back of the neck. Carven was a
big man and he was forcing the valet to look down at Harry Duggin's dead
face.

Carven was saying, "Look at him. He's dead. Do you get that? He's dead.
You called us in here and you figured that would automatically put you
out of the picture. And you told us that a guy by the name of Frey came
in here this morning and killed him. But Frey's an old pal of mine.
Frey's a private dick--a lousy one, reckless and careless, but still
he's a dick and your story didn't go. You killed Duggin--why--why--?"

Not only was Carven big, he was plenty tough. He gave the valet a short
left and a mean right to the ribs. The valet broke.

"I--I killed him," he said, and it turned into a sob. "I--I wanted
something that he owned--"

"What was it?" Carven said. He raised his head, clipped to one of the
cops, "Take this down."

The valet was sobbing, saying, "He had a fortune in little marble
statues. He was always talking about those marble statues, telling me
how priceless they were. He--kept talking about those statues all the
time, telling me that the greatest sculptress in the world made
them--and that money couldn't buy them. That's all he talked about--the
statues made by Tess Rillette. He--drove it into me--made me crazy with
the desire to own them. I--I--put a knife into him--"

Carven grinned. He looked at the cops and said, "Pretty fast, wasn't it?
We came in on this case exactly two and a half hours ago. I can well
imagine what happened to that wise guy Frey. He came in here this
morning and he saw Duggin lying dead in bed and he figured he'd go out
with his stooge Mogin and do big things. I'd like to see his face when
he finds out--"

Then he turned and saw Frey's face.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mogin was talking loud and fast. He was saying, "What're you crying the
blues about? It was just a bad break, that's all. And at least we pinned
something on somebody. We got that smart bird Lasseroe locked up for
fake art manipulations, and--"

They were walking toward the coupe. Frey was shaking his head and his
head was hanging low. He said, "Can we make a late double feature?"

"Sure," Mogin said. He put his heavy hand on Frey's shoulder and said,
"It's a good idea. We'll go to the movies and get it off our minds.
Don't worry, pal. Better days are coming. Hey--where you goin'?"

Frey was walking away from the coupe, toward a corner drug store. "I'll
be right back," he said. "I just want to go in here and take an aspirin.
It'll help me wait for the better days."



THE COP WAS A COWARD

by WILBUR S. PEACOCK

     Johnny Burke had the making of a fine cop in him ... but there was
     something mighty strange about Johnny Burke--something mighty
     strange!

[Illustration]


I liked the looks of Johnny Burke the first time I saw him. He was one
of the cadets who had been signed on less than six months before. He was
still on the probation lists, but I could see that he had the making of
a fine cop in him.

"Sergeant Southern?" he asked, when he found me in the garage, where I
was wiring in a new radio, "My name's Johnny Burke, and I've been
detailed to work with you in 27."

"Glad to know you, Burke," I said, coming out from underneath the
dashboard of the cruiser.

We shook hands, after I had wiped some of the oil from mine, and I
winced a bit from the pressure of his fingers. I got my first good look
at him then, and I felt my first bit of confidence since Riley, my old
partner, had been detailed to the north end of the district.

He was big, and I mean big. Six feet four, he must have been, and must
have weighed close to two and a quarter. Wide shoulders tapered into a
narrow waist, his blond head sat squarely on his shoulders, and he
carried himself with a panther-like grace. He appeared to be a swell
partner to hold down the other half of cruiser 27.

I said as much, and he flushed at the compliment, which was another
thing that took my liking. Too many of the cadet cops think they're big
shots and are inclined to belittle the men who had been cops before they
were out of three-cornered pants.

"I hope so," he said, "for I want to be a cop more than anything else in
the world."

I grinned from my scant six feet. "Okay, let's see how we'll work in
double harness. Shed that coat, and give me a hand with this set."

"Right," he said, and the two of us went to work.

That was our first meeting, and the one in which I judged him for the
first time. I liked the kid and I let him know it, tried to put him wise
to some of the things I've learned in ten years on the force. He
listened to everything I said, tried to fit it in with the theories the
police school had pumped into his brain. Some of it, I knew, he
discarded because it didn't sound logical, but other parts seemed to
make an impression on him.

He rode the other half of the seat with me for the next week, learning
the neighborhood that was our patrol, memorizing names and locations and
addresses as I gave them out. He learned fast, and I knew I had drawn a
honey of a partner.

Still, there was something strange about him that I couldn't quite
analyze. When we were alone, or when we were with the other men at one
of the stations, he was big and quiet, seeming to know that he was not
out of place. But when we made periodic inspections of boarding houses
and the like, he was an entirely different person. He walked stiffly,
his arms braced a bit at his sides. His face became a trifle white and
his lips thinned, making him seem somebody suddenly alien to the kid I
had for a partner. I didn't understand it, and in a way it shook my
confidence in him, which, of course, meant that ours was not the
instinctive partnership it should have been.

That sounds rather silly when I tell it, but there is nothing childish
or amusing in its practical application. Cop teams should be as closely
in accord as Tom and Jerry, or sorghum and flapjacks. The average person
thinks that the mere routine of following orders takes care of the
partnership angle, but that isn't the fact. Teams have to know exactly
how much confidence each can place in the other, and each must know the
capabilities of the other, or the two men don't make a good team.

And here was this new cadet partner of mine acting strangely as the
devil any time the mere routine of covering the district became broken.
I didn't like it, but I kept my mouth shut, waiting to see something
definite that would prove something one way or the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then one day, down in the station gymnasium where daily calisthenics
must be taken, I got my first inkling of the mental twist that was in
Burke's brain.

There were half a dozen of us in the place; some of the men boxing the
bags, some on the bars, and Burke and I on the wrestling mats. He and I
had been practicing jiu jitsu for ten minutes, and both of us were
working up a good perspiration. Neither of us had the advantage for the
moment, so I went in for a quick wristlock and spin.

Burke straightened as I came forward, squatted and drove forward with
catlike speed. Before I knew what was happening, he had caught me with a
knee catch and a hip flip, and I was skidding across the rough canvas on
my face. I was growling to myself for being caught with an elementary
trick, and came whipping back with my hands outspread in catch-all
style.

There was blood on my face, although I didn't know it, and since I'm
none too soft looking at best, I must have appeared to be rather in a
mad rage at being thrown by a man of less skill than I.

I was half-crouched and gathering myself for a quick burst of energy. I
noticed Burke's hands coming into position for sudden defense, and for a
moment the mere fact that they were in position meant quite a bit to
me. For there is no such thing as placing hands in defensive position in
Jiu Jitsu; the entire science of this particular wrestling lies in
keeping your hands out of the reach of your opponent.

I stopped momentarily, sudden wonder filling my mind. Burke's hands
seemed to be warding off some unknown danger that was threatening, and I
caught the flicker of some emotion in his grey eyes. I straightened out
of my crouch, forced myself not to reveal what I had just seen.

Burke backed off a step, and slowly some of the tightness went out of
his face and arms. He breathed deeply, and the sound was strangely like
a gasp of relief.

"Whew!" he said relievedly, "I thought for a moment we were going to
have a real fight."

I grinned, watching every play of emotion on his face, and carefully
weighing every nuance in his tone of voice. And as suddenly as though
somebody had told me, I knew he had a strip of yellow squarely up his
back.

"That shouldn't worry you," I countered, "You could tie me into knots."

"Yeah?" he said skeptically, "And while I was tying you in knots, what
would you be doing?"

I grinned, but I felt suddenly sick inside. Somehow, in the past week, I
had come to think a lot of the kid. And now, despite his strength and
brains and college degree, I knew that our days as partners in 27 were
numbered.

I stretched, headed toward the showers, not answering his question.

"Come on," I said, "We've got just enough time for a cup of coffee
before our shift."

I watched him that night and for the next three days. Now that I was
particularly noticing him, I could see that my analysis was right. He
was like any other cop I had ever known while in comparative safety, but
when out of the usual routine and into some beer dive or fairly tough
hangout, he was yellow clear to his heart.

He proved that one night when we picked up a quartet of drunks at a dive
on the south end of our district. We went there on radioed orders, the
complaint being phoned into headquarters by some old maid whose sleep
was disturbed.

I shoved through the door of the dive, Burke following close behind. The
report had been right, for we could hear the quartet murdering 'Sweet
Adeline' in the back room. We went down the narrow passage and over to
the drunks' table.

"Come on, fellows," I said, "we're going for a little ride."

Burke stood at my side, not saying anything, carrying himself with that
same strained look that I had noticed the first few days we were
together. The drunks joked with me at first, insisting that Burke and I
have a drink or two with them. I wheedled with them for a while, not
wanting to get tough.

And then the entire situation changed. The drunks got ugly, wanted to
fight. I obliged them, taking the two on my side of the table, leaving
the other two for Burke. I crossed a short right, then lifted a left,
and turned to see how my partner was doing.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of his own men was down, a bloody welt along the side of his head,
and the other was cowering drunkenly from the heavy gun in Burke's fist.
I knocked the gun up just as his finger pulled the trigger. I caught the
gun from his hand, looked at his face in amazement.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Burke," I yelled, "These men
aren't criminals; they're just drunk!"

"He was going to hit me with a beer bottle."

"So what!" I was shaking with the nearness with which tragedy had almost
struck. "Hell, you don't shoot a man because of that!"

"But that's what that gun's for. I'm supposed--"

I looked at the drunks, who were rapidly sobering. "Get out of here and
go home," I said, then turned to Burke, "Come on, let's get out of
here."

I reported over the two-way radio that a gun had been fired
accidentally, in case somebody phoned in about it, also explained that
the drunks had disappeared when we got to the scene of the complaint.
Then I turned back to Burke who was huddled in white-faced silence in
the side of the seat.

"For God's sake, Johnny," I said slowly, "Just because you're a cop and
wear a badge doesn't give you the license to shoot that gun any time you
get a notion."

"I know," he said miserably, "I know."

And that was all that was said that night. Burke was uncommunicative and
sullen the rest of the shift, seeming to realize now just what a boner
he had pulled. As for me, I still shook with horror when I remembered
how close he had come to putting a slug through the drunk. I didn't say
any more, even tried to apologize for his action in my mind.

1 tried to cover up for him by saying that he was just a rookie and
untrained. Too, I remembered how frightened I was the first time I had
any trouble. I walked into a gang fight and waded into the leader of one
gang. I had my man down, and was bouncing his head on the sidewalk, when
other cops pulled me off. I was so scared that I didn't even know he had
been unconscious for seconds. Luckily, I hadn't killed him in my
unreasoning excitement.

So I covered for my new partner, and acted as though he had made but a
natural mistake.

But I was only kidding myself, for two nights later, he let me down
again.

It was about eleven at night, and the streets were slowly clearing of
traffic, when we rode right into the center of a bank job. I was at the
wheel, thinking what a swell life my girl and I were going to have when
I got promoted to a detective's job. I pulled around the corner onto
Harper street, and into the path of a tommy gun's fire.

We went over the curb, the tires shot to ribbons, before I had time to
take a deep breath. I went sideways out of the door, grabbing my gun as
I rolled on the pavement. I came up shooting at the two men who were in
the touring. I heard Burke yell something from the other side of the
cruiser.

And then a couple of slugs spun me like a top, and I hit the ground,
having only a hazy memory of seeing Tony Flasco dodging out of the
bank's door with another guy. I passed out cold, the drum of the
touring's motor sounding in my ears.

I woke up once, when Burke came around the car to see how badly I was
hit. I went back into blackness remembering that the flap to his belt
gun was still fastened. The yellow rat hadn't even pulled his gun!

The next thing I remember was asking for a slug of whiskey and not
getting it. After that, I slowly came back to earth. I hadn't been hit
so badly; just bullet shock and a nicked shoulder to keep me in bed for
a couple of days. Within forty eight hours, I was sitting up, and a
week later I was aching to get back into harness again. True, I was
still a bit muscle tender, but I figured a thing like that shouldn't be
considered when a killer like Tony Flasco is running around loose.

I wouldn't see Johnny Burke in the hospital; I wanted nothing to do with
him again. So, each time he tried to visit me, I had the nurse tell him
I was asleep. Finally, he must have taken the hint, for he didn't come
around any more.

I felt pretty badly about the kid, but I felt worse when Riley, my old
partner, visited me. He came through the door of the hospital room, that
map of Ireland he uses for a face ruffled up in a wide grin.

"I warned you, Southern," he said, "but you would play with the big
boys. Now, look at you--your pants are ripped."

"Oh, shut up and sit down," I snapped from the wheelchair, trying not to
grin, "Who the hell do you think you are--Dorothy Dix! Cripes, you've
got enough slugs in you to make you rattle like a dice box!"

"My, what a nasty temper. Tch, tch, tch!"

"Okay, okay, go ahead and gloat. But first, let's hear the latest from
headquarters."

       *       *       *       *       *

And then his face wasn't grinning, instead it grew hard like granite. He
told me the details that the chief hadn't let me know, for fear that I
would get worried. Suddenly, I lost all desire to joke, too.

Tony Flasco, his lieutenant Vance, another killer named Keeper, and an
unidentified man were in the mob that shot me down. They had forced the
bank's cashier to open the bank for them at night, had murdered the
watchman and then left the cashier for dead. He had rallied enough to
identify two of the men from pictures. Burke's and my stories had fitted
in the other pieces.

Tony and his mob had got away with over fifty thousand in cash and an
unnameable sum in bonds. They had disappeared into thin air, were
evidently holing up somewhere until the heat died down. Teletype and
radio had the country blanketed, but with as much money as they had they
would be able to buy their way out of the country.

"So that's that," I said, "not one blasted thing to go on."

"We haven't got a thing," Riley admitted, "but the chief thinks they're
holed up somewhere in town. The identification was too fast to let them
get far."

"Maybe," I said, "and maybe not."

Riley hitched his chair closer, and his face wrinkled up a bit in a
smile. "There's that possibility that the chief might be right, anyway
Johnny thinks so."

I felt blood pressure rising in me for the first time since my
transfusion. I started to tell Riley just what I thought of a cop who
wouldn't even draw his gun to save his own life. And then Riley pulled
the thing that gave me my second shock within a week, and somehow it
hurt me more than the slugs did.

"Yeah, Johnny," he said, "he thinks the chief may be right. He's a
bright kid, too, smart as they come. He should be, he's my nephew and I
put him through college."

"He's--he's your nephew?" I said.

"Sure, and a swell lad; he'll go high on the force. And Southern, you'll
die laughing at this--he thinks you're about the bravest cop and finest
man he ever met."

Well, that clinched it; I couldn't say a thing about the kid. I knew it
wasn't the right thing to do; I should have reported him the moment I
got out of the hospital, but the memory of Riley's pride stopped me
before I could speak. Instead, I laughed and joked with the cops at the
station, and tried not to be alone with Burke. I knew that I might tell
him exactly what I was thinking if he rubbed me the wrong way.

And then on the tenth day after the shooting, Tony and his mob still in
hiding, I went back into 27 with Johnny Burke. To all outward
appearances we must have appeared to be the same old team, but there was
a difference.

I was still taped, and the bandages irritated me every time I moved. But
there was an irritation in Johnny that shifting a bandage couldn't help.

He tried to make conversation, but I wasn't in the least pleasant. After
a bit, he shut up and remained hunched over the wheel, his face as white
and stiff as though chiselled from marble. I felt sorry for him then,
but I felt a dull hatred, too. He had almost cost me my life, and might
do it again if something broke.

I made a mental resolution to apply for a transfer the moment we got
back to the station.

About three in the morning, there was a furtive whistle from the mouth
of an alley near where we had parked for a moment. Burke grunted
something, then climbed from the car. I went, too, just out of general
principles.

I knew the whistler the moment I saw him. His name was Lefty
something-or-other, and he was about the sneakiest stool the department
had. Burke seemed to know him, for he started talking the second we were
out of sight of the street.

"You found it?" he said.

"Sure, it's down the street about six blocks. They're holed up in the
old warehouse." Lefty's tone was a thin, scared whisper.

Burke pulled a packet of bills from his pocket, slipped them to Lefty's
skinny hand. Then the stool was gone down the darkness of the alley, and
Burke was turning to me.

"One hundred bucks," he said, "but it's worth it."

"What's worth it?" I asked, but I had a hunch about what was coming.

"The information. I've had Lefty working for me for ten days. He's
spotted Flasco and his men in the empty warehouse down the street."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" I snapped, "let's take them!"

I had forgotten for the moment that the cop was a coward; but Burke
didn't waste a bit of time in bringing back my memory.

"Maybe we'd better call headquarters?" he said slowly.

       *       *       *       *       *

I caught at Burke's arm with a grip so tight it hurt my fingers.

"Let me tell you something, Burke," I said, "Lefty is too ratty to
trust. Before a squad could get here, he'll tip Tony Flasco off about
cops coming. That's his way; he collects both ways." I let go his arm.
"We'll call headquarters, sure, but meanwhile we'll see what we can do
to stop those punks from leaving."

Burke's face was whiter than any man's I've ever seen. A muscle twitched
in his cheek, and his hands lifted a bit.

"Look, Southern," he said, "you don't understand."

"Don't understand!" I was so filled with rage I could barely talk. "I
understand only too well. You dirty yellow rat, you're a disgrace to the
uniform you wear. You're afraid, afraid to meet another man on equal
footing. You were afraid of me in the gym; you were afraid of the drunk
in the beer joint; you were afraid of Tony's guns--and now you're afraid
to try to mop up a mob that's murdered two men in cold blood." I went
toward the street. "Well, by the Gods, I'm afraid too. I'm just as
scared as you of getting my belly full of hot lead. But this is my job,
and I intend to do it."

"Look, Southern--" He caught at my sleeve.

I shook myself free. "Look, hell! You've got a gun; why don't you use it
now the way you'd have used it on a defenseless drunk!"

"That's what I'm trying--"

I swung, lifted an uppercut from my knees. Johnny Burke went down,
crumpling slackly to the cement.

"That's just in case I don't come back," I snarled, "I owe you that."

And then I was running down the street.

I ducked around the first corner, ran half a block, then slipped down
the alley. I was over my rage almost as soon as I was out of sight of
the cruiser, and suddenly sorry for what I had done.

I knew that he would be coming to in a minute or so, and would call
headquarters and report. Meanwhile, it was my job to try and hold Flasco
and his mob until help arrived. I laughed suddenly without mirth; I knew
that one man didn't have a Chinaman's chance of holding four men in that
warehouse.

I slowed down in the fourth block, realizing how weak my trip to the
hospital had made me. My head was swimming a bit, and there was a throb
of pain from my side where a slug had gouged a path.

I darted down the alley, keeping under cover, watching other shadows to
see if there was a lookout posted. Finally, I came to the rear of the
vacant warehouse, satisfied that I had arrived unseen.

I took a look around, trying to find a sliver of light that would reveal
the part of the building in which the men were hiding. Empty windows
leered back at me, scabby paint seemed to rustle in the light breeze,
but I couldn't find the slightest signs of life.

I leaned weakly against the wall for a moment, wondering if the tip had
been on the square, knowing instinctively that it had. I leaped and
caught the bottom rung of a fire escape, pulled myself up until I could
get a foothold.

Then I went upward as quietly as I could. I found an unlocked window on
the third floor, slipped silently through. I held my breath for a
moment, wondering if I had been heard. Then, my gun in my hand, I
sneaked through the darkness.

I covered the entire floor, shaking a bit in nervousness as a rat
scuttled to safety. For seconds, I wondered if I might not be smarter by
waiting for reinforcements.

And then my mind was made up for me.

On the floor above there was the sudden sound of voices. I went toward
the stairs, climbed them slowly. My mouth was dry, and I could feel cold
sweat trickling down my spine.

"Come on, come on," That was Tony's voice. "This place'll be hotter than
hell in another five minutes."

I edged further up the steps, crouched with my head just below the
landing. I heard steps coming my way and saw the flicker of a light.
Then I stood up, lifted my gun.

"Hold it," I said, "It's the law."

There were the sounds of startled gasps behind the flashlight, then a
gun barked defiantly. I crouched a bit, blasted lead at shadowy figures.
I heard someone scream in agony, then a giant hand lifted me and sent me
rolling down the steps.

"Got him!" That was Tony again.

I tried to move, knew that another minute and I'd never be able to move
again. I stumbled to my feet, went back to the stairs. Above, I could
hear the mutter of scared voices. I knew why they didn't come down; they
were afraid I was playing possum.

I collapsed on the second step, was suddenly sick because of the pain in
my chest. And then, the steps vibrated from a heavy weight.

I lifted my head, wanting to see what was coming. For a moment, I
couldn't figure it out. Then I screamed out a warning.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Johnny Burke went on up. One moment he was limned in the glow of the
flashlight, then gunfire made a blasting hell of that fourth floor. I
saw Johnny Burke's body jerk a bit under the impact of the slugs, but he
was too big to be stopped by them.

I got to the top of the steps, not knowing how I got there, but in time
to see the finish.

One man was down, probably sent there by my bullets, and another was
just crumpling from a smashed skull from a savage blow of Johnny Burke's
gun. A third man turned and tried to run, but Johnny's hands reached out
and hurled him against a wall. He was spreadeagled there for a moment,
then slumped sideways.

And then Johnny closed with Flasco.

He went back two steps as Tony pulled the trigger of the gun, then shook
his head and started forward again. He caught Tony, and they fought
silently for a second. Tony was big, but Johnny was bigger. But Johnny
was carrying enough lead to kill the average man.

Tony knew that and fought with the viciousness of a cornered rat. But he
was no match for the devil that was Johnny then. Johnny caught him in
arms like heavy lengths of hawser, and the back of his coat split from
the sudden surge of strength that went through them.

Tony Flasco screamed then, screamed like a woman in deadly agony and
fear. He pounded at Johnny Burke's face with bloody hands. Then there
was the sound of a heavy stick breaking, and Tony went utterly limp.

Johnny loosened his grip, stood swaying for a moment. He was laughing,
laughing with a madness that chilled my heart. He turned, tottered
toward me, fell, then dragged himself along with his hands. He laughed
when he saw my face in the flashlight's glow, but there was no mirth in
the sounds.

"I'm yellow," he said, "yellow as hell! I've been afraid all of my life.
Funny isn't it?" He choked a bit. "Then laugh, damn it, why don't you?
I'm big, and big guys aren't supposed to know what fear is. So I become
a cop, and for a while I think I'm learning bravery."

"Easy, Johnny, easy," I said, seeing the trickle of crimson on his lips.

"Easy, hell!" Johnny's hands clutched my shoulder. "Yeah, I was afraid
of you; you were the first man who ever stood up to me. I was afraid of
the drunk, too, and in my fear I almost murdered him. I knew then that
I could never carry a gun until I learned what bravery was."

"For God's sake, Johnny, shut up!" I yelled, "You'll talk yourself into
a hemorrhage."

"You'll listen to me and like it."

I nodded, felt a sabre of pain in my chest where Tony's slug had blasted
into me. I tried to move, couldn't, his hand was too solid on my
shoulder.

"So I couldn't get by without a gun," Johnny Burke's voice was growing
weaker. "So guess what I did--I took the bullets out. Yeah, I carried an
empty gun, afraid that if it were loaded I'd butcher somebody. You
thought I ran out on you the night of the hold-up, but I didn't. I tried
to tell you my gun was empty, but things happened too fast. And then
tonight, after Lefty gave us this hideout location, I didn't have time
to explain again. I had forgotten to bring shells for my gun, and wanted
to get some before we raided this warehouse. But you slugged me and came
yourself. I came to and followed you. Yeah, laugh that off, I followed
you in here with a gun I could use only for a club. Sure I'm yellow, I'm
yellow as hell, but I'm not such a rat I'd let you walk to certain death
without lifting a hand. And don't tell me I was brave; I was still as
yellow as I ever was. But I didn't have any choice. Hell, Southern,
don't you think I'd like to be brave like--"

He crumpled inertly, his hand slipping from my shoulder. I don't
remember much about what happened after that, but it couldn't have been
much more than a minute before the cops broke in.

We've got beds in the same room, Johnny and I. He'll be here quite a bit
longer than I will, but I figured maybe we'd better stick together while
we're in here. After all, if you're figuring on being partners for a
long time to come, there's no time like the present to make a few plans
for the future.

I just caught a glimpse of his back through the silly gown he's wearing.
Even partly covered by the bandages, I like it. Somehow, it still is
pretty solid--too, I'm beginning to appreciate its whiteness.

THE END



THE STRANGE CASE OF WILLIAM LONG

by ROY GILES

A TRUE FACT DETECTIVE SHORT

[Illustration]


Among the many unsolved mysteries in American crime annals the strange
disappearance case of millionaire William Long, of Denver and Chicago,
stands out as unusually weird. The case is doubly interesting in that it
is marked by an almost exact parallel in the disappearance of
millionaire William Sweet of Montreal. In each case a million dollars in
cash disappeared with the victim.

So far as is known the two cases are in no way connected. It is barely
possible that the same combination of kidnappers and murderers
perpetrated both crimes--if they were crimes. It is not altogether
impossible that both men disappeared of their own volition, although
such deductions might seem highly improbable. The William Long case is
the most interesting so it will be held for more detailed treatment
while a brief review is given of the William Sweet case which is the
more recent of the two.

William Sweet dropped from visible earthly existence in a Montreal
office building a few minutes after he had been paid $1,000,000 in cash
for his holdings in a Canadian theater chain. He had insisted the deal
be for cash and the amount paid to him in his offices. The
purchasers--according to perfectly reliable witnesses--brought the money
to William Sweet's offices where they found him alone in an inner room.
They paid over the money, were handed the documents of conveyance in
return, and left the place. That was some twenty years ago and from that
moment to now no one has ever seen or heard of William Sweet or the
million dollars in cash.

His attorneys, nor anyone connected with him closely, could account for
his strange actions prior to his disappearance. He was estranged from
his wife. She and others were questioned long and arduously by police
without result. His friends were the most mystified of all.

A few years previously William Long, one of the oddest characters ever
to have existed outside the pages of fiction, dropped from sight on the
street in the Loop district in Chicago in mid-afternoon. He was carrying
a suitcase containing $1,000,000 in cash which he had just withdrawn
from a Chicago bank. He was on his way to pay the money to the heads of
a syndicate in control of Chicago's gambling concession. The money was
to purchase for him a controling interest in an illegal concession and
one that would not have been regarded as tangible, probably, by any man
in the world except a Western gambler.

Furthermore, in order to get the million dollars with which to purchase
control of Chicago's gambling institutions Long had sacrificed a
perfectly legitimate and highly prosperous produce commission business.
Always a gambler, Long had tumbled into the legitimate million-dollar
business accidentally. He had entered into it against his better or
personal judgment and had no liking for it whatever. It interfered with
Long's gambling career, a situation which--to a man of Long's type--was
altogether intolerable.

Western gamblers are legion--a reckless, money-plunging, romantic and
venturesome yet an admittedly square-shooting clan. Long was typical of
this crowd. He was a swagger dresser and more marked than many because
he was strikingly handsome. Even better looking was Long's red-haired
wife. They were an unusually devoted pair according to all reports.

Long was born in Chicago and even as a young man he managed to climb
high in the gambling circles of that city. He was a high-ranking officer
in the fabulous gambling empire of John Worth, reputed to have been the
wealthiest gambler of all time with the possible exceptions of Edward
Chase and Vasil Chuckovich. Chase and Chuck, as they were known,
controled all gambling from Chicago west to the coast for thirty years
and amassed more than $20,000,000 apiece. Canfield, in all his glory,
nor any other Eastern gambler, not even the present wealthy, staid, and
conservative Col. Bradley, king of the modern gambling world, ever
approached the enormous fortunes of Worth, or Chase or Chuck.

Chase was originally a Saratoga, N. Y., hotel clerk and his partner
Chuck was an Austrian emigrant, kitchen worker. Both were bitten by the
gambling bug in Saratoga and went West, not to grow up with, but to
fairly conquer the country. They ran a dime apiece up into
multi-millions without batting their eye-lashes. It was under the
direction of this highly spectacular pair that William Long, a gambling
genius in his own right, was destined to work in Denver.

Long left Chicago for Denver during one of those periodical municipal
reform upheavals that sent his boss, John Worth, under cover for a
spell. Long arrived in Denver with his beautiful wife and a $10,000 bank
roll one bright spring day at the opening of the Overland Park racing
season. The Colorado resort fairly dripped with wealthy tourists and
members of the sporting fraternity from everywhere. He qualified with
Boss Ed Chase and was assigned territory. He opened up a rather modest
gambling hall near Seventeenth and Curtis streets. This was within a
stone's throw of Chase and Chuck's famous Cottage Club and it was
understood that Long was to take care of the overflow from the Cottage
resort.

Just to bow to a time-honored custom, the room of Long's place fronting
on the street was fitted up as a fruit stand--a stall, of course, for
the spacious gambling hall in the back. This was more a condescension to
the church element than through any fear of the law.

Long had been in operation only a few weeks when the altogether weird
began entering into his affairs. The Rocky Ford garden district in
Colorado began growing small melons. Some of them found their way to
Long's stall. A youth tended the stall and nobody connected with the
whole establishment ever cared whether the fruit stall ever profited a
dime or not. The youth knew his salary was coming from the games in back
but it was customary to treat any possible stray customer for fruit
quite seriously and attentively.

One afternoon Long sent the youth on an errand and took charge of the
stall while the boy was gone. This was simply because all Long's dealers
were doing a Monte Carlo business in back and he was the only one
footloose. A man approached the stall and picked up one of the tiny
cantaloupes from Rocky Ford. He cut into it with a pocket-knife and
tasted the meat. Then the customer's eye-lids went up in the air. Long
observed him and, as he explained later, was becoming just a little
bored. Then the customer spoke, gravely, seriously:

"This," he said, "is the most perfect and the most deliciously flavored
melon of its kind in all the world."

"If that's true," said Long, "nobody seems to care. I can get them at a
dime apiece, wholesale. I'll sell you all you can carry at fifteen cents
each."

"Where do you get them?" asked the customer.

"They're grown down in Rocky Ford," said Long.

"These melons are worth $1.50 each and I can get that for them. I'll
take a train-load, laid down in Chicago, green, at fifteen cents each. I
am Mr. Blank of Blank & Blank. We supply a wealthy trade, the most
excellent hotels and the royal families of Europe. Wire me the market
daily on these melons in season."

       *       *       *       *       *

That was the beginning of the Rocky Ford cantaloupe fame. Prices soared
to seventy-five cents, wholesale, within a week. Long went into the
melon business with Senator Swink, of the Rocky Ford district. They
bought up the entire crop and cleaned up a million dollars profit each
within a few years.

Then Long became restive. The gambling germs in his blood were rampant.
He sold out to Senator Swink and others and moved on to Chicago, his
early stamping ground.

Worth, kingpin of the Chicago gambling fraternity, had grown old and
what is known as the "concession" had fallen into other hands. Long
found that, so far as the Chicago gambling situation was concerned, he
was an outsider looking in. He and his wife knew that even their old
friends could do nothing to change this situation.

But our hero was nothing if not a determined person. Both he and his
beautiful red-haired wife liked Chicago and Long could not live without
gambling, so he was put to figuring out some way to make it possible for
him to fly his flags in the Loop or some other first-class commercial
district.

Finally he decided that if he could gain a foothold no other way, no one
would try to prevent his buying his way in. So he made his famous offer
of $1,000,000 cash for a controling interest in one approved district.
What happened after that might never be thoroughly understood. A little
light is thrown on the shadow by some known facts regarding Chicago
gamblers and their wars.

Like Long, himself, all Chicago gamblers are determined persons. The
famous killing of Jake Lingel and other interesting little events only
go to show just how determined Chicago gamblers are at times. It is
possible that there was an element in Chicago that did not exactly
approve of Long's activities. It is possible that they objected to his
entrance into the lists at any price.

What can happen under such conditions is shown by a page from the record
which reveals that, some years back, one gambling contingent was in and
another contingent was out. The outs were warring with the ins. During
this one war 49 bombs were tossed and planted and 49 gambling
establishments were blasted, uprooted and blown into the air.

There is no doubt that Long was aware of conditions. Whatever it was
that happened to him he certainly must have walked into it with his eyes
wide open.

His deal to pay $1,000,000 cash for a gambling concession progressed to
a point where Long withdrew the money from a bank. He took it to his
hotel room where he waited with his wife for a telephone call. The money
was in a suitcase. The phone rang and according to the wife Long
answered it. It was a little after one o'clock in the afternoon--broad
daylight, of course.

Long turned from the phone to his wife.

"I am going over now, and meet the boys," he said. "I have only got to
go about two blocks and as soon as I sign up I will be right back."

"For God's sake be careful," cautioned the wife.

"Don't be silly," laughed Long. "It is broad daylight. I am only going a
couple of blocks along the busiest street in the world. This suitcase
will attract no more attention than any other suitcase." Long kissed his
wife and left. He was confident and cheerful. But he did not come back.

The beautiful wife waited and waited. She phoned all their friends and
all the hospitals.

Gamblers' wives are never in a hurry to phone the police but finally,
after many hours of waiting and weeping, Mrs. Long did just that. It
availed her nothing. To use a hackneyed figure, it was as though the
earth had opened and swallowed her husband.



A DINNER DATE WITH MURDER

by HARRY STEIN


It was long past the dinner hour and too early for the after theatre
crowd. The two men at the table near the door were the only patrons in
Luigi's restaurant. They had eaten and were sitting there drinking wine.
They drank very slowly and it was plain that they were waiting for
somebody because they weren't talking much and had the half bored, half
impatient look of people who have nothing to do but wait. At a table
near the back of the room the waiter, who seemed to be the only one on
duty, sat smoking a black twisted cigar and reading a newspaper.

One of the men put his wine glass down and lit a cigarette. Even sitting
down he was noticeably shorter than his companion but he was powerfully
built. He had a deep olive complexion and eyes that were black and
sparkling.

"It looks like your man isn't coming, Dan," he said.

"Don't worry about that, Gatti," Dan said. "He'll turn up. He knows the
trail's hot and he'd rather be a live rat than a dead kidnapper."

Gatti shook his head slowly. "I don't know," he said vaguely. "You say
you'll know if it's the same one that phoned. How can you be sure?"

"The accent. It's unmistakable. A deep voice and an accent like a
vaudeville dialectician's."

Gatti refilled their glasses from the green bottle on the table. Then
they were silent.

The front door opened and two men entered. One was fat with a complexion
the color of old weather beaten brick and eyes that were watery and
cold. He wore a high crowned, pearl grey fedora, set squarely on his
head and his fleecy coat had heavily padded shoulders. The other man was
slight and sallow. His coat was too tight across his back and he walked
with a defiant swagger. They hung their hats and coats on the rack and
sat down two tables away from the one at which Dan and Gatti were
sitting. The waiter put down his cigar and came to their table, bowing
slightly.

"Spaghetti wid' a meat sauce," the stout man ordered loudly, "an' a
bottle a' Chianti."

"Same," the small man said laconically.

The waiter went off without a word. The two men lit cigarettes. Dan and
Gatti watched them with open curiosity, waiting for some sign but they
smoked in silence, never looking in the direction of the other table.

"It's the organ grinder accent all right," Gatti said in a barely
audible voice. "But where's the high sign?"

"Give him a chance," Dan mumbled. "He has to be plenty careful, I
suppose."

The waiter came in with a wicker wrapped bottle which he set on the
table before the newcomers. Then he went back to the kitchen and when he
returned he brought two heaping plates of spaghetti, dripping reddish
brown sauce and giving off a fragrant steam.

"The idea is to talk on a full stomach, I suppose," Gatti whispered. "Or
isn't he the guy? I thought your man was coming alone."

"He didn't say," Dan said.

Gatti watched the fat, red faced man wielding fork and knife, eating the
spaghetti with great relish.

"Dat's a pretty good a' spaghetti, eh Joe?" the fat man said loudly.

"Right," Joe replied briefly.

Dan looked toward the back of the room where the waiter was again
occupied with his cigar and paper. Maybe they're waiting for the waiter
to clear out first, he was thinking. He sipped at his wine, waiting....
Then he looked up again. The stout man had almost finished what was on
his plate and was taking a long drink from his wine glass. He put the
glass down and sat back in his chair. He turned his watery eyes on Dan
and nodded his head slowly up and down ... up and down. Dan glanced
quickly at Gatti who had his elbow on the table and seemed to be
sleepily leaning far over to one side of his chair. Then he nodded his
head at the stout man just as the latter had done.

The next instant he was on the floor and somewhere over his head,
repeated claps of thunder were bursting as if they would never cease and
from the other table he heard a choked scream. His ears hurt in the
silence that followed.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he rose from the floor Gatti, gun in hand, was already standing at
the side of the two men who a little while before had been enjoying
their spaghetti and were now dead. The waiter had disappeared. Dan took
a revolver from the lifeless hand of the small, sallow faced man. He
looked at the chambers. All the cartridges were neatly in place.

"He never had a chance to use it," Gatti explained.

The door opened again. A man with his hat drawn down low over his eyes,
stood in the doorway and looked wildly about at the dead men and at Dan
and Gatti. Then he turned around frantically.

"Our man," Gatti cried.

He leaped forward, grabbed the fleeing man by the elbow and jerked him
violently into the room.

"You wanted to see us," Gatti said. "You phoned the lieutenant, didn't
you?"

Every feature of the man's face was distorted with terror. Gatti shook
him.

"This is the lieutenant," he said pointing to Dan. "What were you going
to tell him?"

The man was looking at the corpses with a slow, steady gaze. His face
was more composed now.

"Sure," he said in a deep, resonant voice. "Dey a' deada now, yes? I no
hava ta be afraid, yes?"

"That's right, they're dead," Dan said. "Where have they been keeping
the kid?"

The man drew a piece of paper from his pocket. Dan read the address on
it and put it in his own pocket.

"Who are they?" he asked pointing to the bodies.

The man was calm now.

"Dat's a' Rocky Callahan," he said, "an'a da leetle wan he's a Joe
Baker. I was a' gon' ta tell you. I was a' gon' ta--how you say--walk
out on a' dem."

"Rocky Callahan from Detroit!" Dan said in surprise. "You mean the fat
feller."

"Dat's a'right."

"Sucker," Gatti chuckled.

"Yeah," Dan said wryly. "But what started the target practice?"

"He pulled a rod on us," Gatti said.

"Who?"

"Joe Baker, the little guy."

"I didn't see it."

"Sure, because you weren't looking for it."

"I was looking at them."

"Baker had it under the table in the hand he wasn't eating with. You
couldn't notice unless you bent down to look under the flap of their
tablecloth. They must have found out their pal here was going to sing
and figured he probably told us too much already. They counted on
getting him later."

Dan nodded reflectively. "But what I want to know," he said, "is how you
happened to be looking under their table."

Gatti chuckled some more.

"I was just making sure," he said. "Guys named Callahan shouldn't try to
eat spaghetti. He might have palmed off the accent but nobody with a
real accent like that would cut up his spaghetti with a knife and pick
up tiny pieces on his fork."

"What's wrong with that?" Dan wanted to know.

Gatti gave him a look of contempt. "You eat spaghetti with a fork and a
tablespoon to help you wind it around the fork and you eat it full
length or it isn't worth eating."

"You dam' right," Gatti's prisoner put in belligerently. His fear and
humility were completely gone now. "Dat's a' da only way ta eata him."



ARTISTIC MURDERS MISFIRE

_A TRUE FACT CRIME SHORT_

by MAT RAND


A scientific detective, identified with national and international law
enforcement agencies, is authority for the statement that there are at
least eighteen methods of murder that practically defy detection. Yet
the record shows that there are very few murders committed in any one of
the eighteen ways that go unpunished. In other words the old adage,
"Murder Will Out," is true according to the record in about ninety
percent of all felonious killings.

To commit a murder in any one of the mentioned eighteen ways it would be
necessary for the murderer to be a reasonably advanced scientist. Few
possess the technical knowledge necessary to destroy their fellow beings
by these methods. Nevertheless, all eighteen of the methods mentioned
have been tried from time to time with varying success in escaping
conviction.

It would appear that persons of scientific attainment could be counted
upon not to attempt murder. This is not true. Education is not a
one-hundred percent deterrent to crime. Educated persons have only a
slightly less average as potential murderers than the illiterate. Not
even motives differ except in cases of murder for robbery. Considering
robbery as greed this difference is removed. Jealousy figures as a
motive in a large number of murders and among the educated murderers it
is paramount.

[Illustration]

Considering murder--for that matter all forms of crime--as an art it
would seem likely that the criminals of education or scientific
attainment would excel as master craftsmen. This isn't true either. Just
the opposite prevails. In practically all crimes attempted by scientists
they bungle their jobs completely. The record proves positively that as
criminals scientists are flunkies without a single recorded exception.

Where a murder is committed by a method that destroys its own evidence
or fails to leave what might be called a "trace" or clue detectives are
hampered but not necessarily baffled. In these cases, almost without
exception, it is circumstances that bring the criminal to punishment.
While a jury might refuse to convict on circumstantial evidence a
detective is not so deterred. The scientific detective turns science
against the scientific murderer. He batters the suspect with
circumstantial evidence until in nine out of ten cases the scientific
suspect weakens and acknowledges his crime. Circumstantial evidence
backed by a confession that checks on all angles is about all any jury
needs to be convinced of guilt.

When your correspondent began to dig into this subject of artistic or
scientific murder Government detectives--themselves master
scientists--made a request. They asked that we be "a little vague" in
the use of proper names and in description of the eighteen murder
methods most difficult of detection. So, we will name no chemicals or
poisons but confine ourselves to effects and processes.

The commonest method is the complete destruction of the corpse--the
corpus delicti. Cremation is the usual means resorted to. The body is
burned in a furnace or on a pyre. Effort is sometimes made to make
identification impossible by burning the body or parts of it in gasoline
flames. The scientist has no edge on his uneducated fellow in this type
of murder case. He practically never is able to remain with the burning
corpse long enough to do a perfect job.

In many cases complete dissolution of the corpse is attempted by
immersion in acids. There are acids that completely dissolve bone tissue
and even clothing but circumstances usually reveal these crimes.
Accessibility to such chemicals and procurement of such chemicals
usually lead to a search. The search usually leads to the finding of
bone fragments, identifiable by means of buttons, bits of jewelry,
metallic dentistry and other bits of evidence which escapes or rather
resists the acid effects.

And now we get into some deep scientific water. It is actually possible
by the exact and accurate dosage of a certain poison, over a long
period, to produce death "by typhoid fever." This poison, a common and
easily available one shows up like an electric sign when not
scientifically administered. But when given in frequent and exact small
quantities it produces every symptom of typhoid. Quite often the corpse
is buried as a typhoid victim.

In most of these "typhoid" cases the motive is insurance and the
murderer encouraged by success in one case attempts others. Sometimes
there are a score of victims. In practically all cases the murderer is
convicted in the long run. The circumstances that usually bring about
detection are doctors and nurses and neighbors. They will remember that
the murderer was always quite enthusiastic about insurance. A nurse will
remember that the murderer insisted on preparing the victim's food.
Sometimes a druggist will remember selling some poison to kill a dog or
as an insecticide.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is, too, a gas that administered in exactly correct quantities
will produce "tuberculosis." This gas kills instantly unless
scientifically administered. A small quantity will cause the lungs to
"rot" gradually bringing death in from five to thirty days with all the
symptoms of rapid or "galloping" consumption. Doctors have so diagnosed
such cases but circumstances usually bring the crime to light. First
among these is that the gas is rare, ordinarily. It can be home-made but
only by a chemist with a well-grounded knowledge.

It would appear that, among poisons, the most powerful would be the
hardest to detect. This because a small dose would leave less trace than
a large one. It follows only in some cases. One very powerful poison
absolutely defies detection. Another, and the most deadly poison known
to man reveals itself instantly. This second poison perfumes the corpse
and leaves it smelling with a fruity odor. Any doctor or chemist can
identify it instantly regardless of how small the dose might have been.

In the event of the first named powerful poison--the one that defies
detection--there is no odor or other discernible indication of any
nature. When scientifically administered the fatal dose is less than one
billionth the weight of an ordinary human body. Thus, to trace it, the
autopsy doctors would have to find, separate or segregate a billionth
bit of the mass under observation. The body completely absorbs the fatal
chemical and so--.

This poison has its uses but is rare and impossible to obtain even by
most chemists. There are few dispensing druggists who have scales
sensitive enough to weigh the dosage of the chemical. Even for doctors
to obtain it is an undertaking involving considerable red tape. But it
has been used by murderers--scientific murderers. Circumstances in these
cases have proven that the murderer possessed the drug and had a motive
to use it. Confession has followed circumstantial evidence in some cases
and in others conviction has been obtained on expert testimony backed by
positive circumstantial conditions, such as the presence of the corpse
and proof of the ante-mortem possession of the fatal drug by the
suspected murderer.

A fiction story of the football grid, some years ago, involved the use
of a solution to produce a fatal gas under conditions of bodily heat
produced by violent exercise. This was authentic so far as action and
effects were concerned. In the football story the victim's sweater was
soaked in a deadly solution. Under the heat of the exercise during the
football game the victim's body generated the gas which he inhaled. The
gas stimulated his heart action to the point where a blood vessel was
ruptured causing death.

The actual case from which this fiction story was borrowed involved a
man, a wife, and the wife's clandestine violinist lover. The wife
knitted the sweater for her admirer. Her husband dipped it in chemical
solution and dried it while his wife was absent. When she returned she
expressed the sweater to her admirer. He wore it under his shirt. His
body heat produced the gas which was inhaled by the violinist in
sufficient quantities to cause death.

The hypodermic needle is a weapon of death which has caused autopsy
physicians trouble since its invention. Murder by the hypodermic needle,
no doubt, would escape detection often enough were it not for
circumstances. Such circumstances of death are ever in the mind of
autopsy doctors. Where evidence warrants it corpses are subjected to
microscopic and meticulous search to locate a hypodermic puncture. And
they can be located even when hidden back of an eyelid as was the case
in one instance, that of an infant. The suspected murderer, in this
case, a colored mother, died in an insane asylum.

In cases such as have been described here readers might wonder why
names, dates and places are not revealed. They might ask why scientific
detectives desire the text to be vague. The reason is quite simple and
understandable once it is explained. Even where conviction is obtained
in such cases it is only after the most laborious and expensive
processes and investigations. Living relatives of the accused in each
case might be moved to bring suit on any of many grounds. This would
result in more long, laborious and expensive litigation--to the
Government, the writer, the publisher, doctors, detectives and what not?

This thing has been going on for centuries. As far back as history
records mysterious poisons have been a common means of murder. There are
thousands of poisons. Some of these, products of the jungles held secret
by savage tribes, are still little known to or understood by scientists.
Poisons are given up by the earth, secreted by plants and by animals.
They are produced by combining chemicals and by chemical reactions. In
nature they are begotten by elemental distillation, by the action of the
sun's rays, by the excrement of animals including the fishes, by the
promulgation of minute organisms, and in a myriad of mysterious ways.

Some of these processes are well understood and some little understood
by man. As is the case with electrical and other forms of scientific
research the field of scientific criminal detection hardly has been
scratched. Research is constant and no doubt will be perpetual. No one
knows where any sort of research will lead. Scientific detectives call
attention to this fact:

     "Such research is valuable not only in the matter of law
     enforcement but might prove of inestimable value in other fields.
     It might lead to a discovery that would end cancer or one that
     would end war."





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